A Conservative councillor has defected to the Lib Dems because of “this government’s hard Brexit”.

Christine Elmer, Walton South councillor on Elmbridge Borough Council, announced that she was switching allegiance to the Liberal Democrats on Twitter yesterday evening.

She wrote: "I can no longer be a Conservative due to this Gov's hard Brexit. I have today joined the Lib Dems" and shared the link to the Liberal Democrats member sign-up page.

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Her defection comes just over a week before Surrey County Council elections on May 4, and less than a week after Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap general election for June 8.

Cllr Elmer, who had worked for the Conservatives for 11 years, said: "I have been unhappy for some time with the political direction of the Conservative party. In recent days this situation had escalated by a series of events, including the announcement by the Prime Minister of a general election about the handling of the terms of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.

“As a fervent Remainer I find I can no longer support the government's line on this, nor that of the current MP Dominic Raab. I now find it impossible to be a member of the Conservative party and have therefore decided to join the Liberal Democrat party.”

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Cllr Elmer has served Walton South ward since 2006, in 2014 was returned unopposed, and in 2016 received the highest number of votes in the ward’s elections.

She added: “I therefore believe I have a personal mandate to continue in office. It is not my intention to cause a by-election.

“I will do my best to continue to represent my constituents of Walton South and to look after their interests regardless of political interest. I feel I will be better able to do that as a member of a political party that I can support 100 per cent both at a national level and locally. That party is the Liberal Democrat party."

A spokesperson for Elmbridge Conservatives said: "On Sunday 23rd April Councillor Christine Elmer informed the Elmbridge Conservative group of her intention to resign from our party and join the Liberal Democrats. We are of course saddened and disappointed by  this decision, which appears to be based on national rather than local factors. Whilst we will miss Christine and her contribution to the group and dedication to Conservative principles and values, we wish her well for the future.

"Christine was elected by voters in Walton South last year as a Conservative and standing on a Conservative group manifesto. As she now wishes to represent another party the fair and correct course of action is that there should now be a by-election in Walton South where Christine can, if she wishes, seek a mandate from the people under her new political colours. We believe the voters of Walton South deserve this consideration and indeed we would expect it.

"The most appropriate and cost effective date for this by-election is Thursday 8th June, when polling arrangements will already be in place in Walton South ward for the General Election."
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