Gabriel Rozenberg: Barnet Tory councillor defects to Liberal Democrats blaming Brexit, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg

Gabriel Rozenberg.

Gabriel Rozenberg. - Credit: Archant

Senior Barnet Conservative Gabriel Rozenberg has dramatically defected to the Liberal Democrats this afternoon.

The Garden Suburb councillor told this newspaper he could no longer remain "in the party of Brexit" and wanted to offer people in Barnet "a proper authentic choice" in coming elections.

Cllr Rozenberg, who had chaired the town hall's housing committee, will now be forced to give up the vast majority of his committee appointments as he moves into opposition as the only Liberal Democrat representative at Hendon Town Hall.

He told the Ham&High: "It's been very much motivated by the way the Conservative Party has changed at a national level. It's not the party I joined.

"Brexit has taken over the party. It'd be hugely damaging to people like me and people in Barnet.

"It's about taking away our identity as Europeans."

He added that although he was a "big believer in compromise" he no longer felt he could campaign as a Conservative and while also being "authentic".

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"I felt like I wasn't being honest with the voters," he said. "After three years of this [Brexit], I realised I wanted to be out there fighting it."

He said that he had no issue with the local Conservative Party - which is made up of "wonderful people" - but he added: "The party is run by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. I realised you can't fight Lord Voldemort while you still live with the Dursleys."

He said the people of Barnet "deserved more" than "a choice between the party of Brexit and the party of Jeremy Corbyn", and added that Labour's antisemitism rows had "hurt the Jewish community in Barnet".

Asked how he would transition into life in opposition - and whether he would now oppose anything on the Barnet Conservative's agenda - he said: "I'm taking it one step at a time. I am not going to claim to have suddenly changed all of my opinions but I will now be able to take a different line when it feels right."

Cllr Rozenberg, who becomes the first Liberal Democrat on the council since Jack Cohen lost his seat in Childs Hill at the 2018 local elections.

The Barnet Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.