Eagle withdraws from UK Labour leadership contest

British Opposition Labour Party MP Angela Eagle holds a press conference in London on July 11, 2016 (AFP Photo/Chris J Ratcliffe)

London (AFP) - Challenger Angela Eagle withdrew from the contest to lead Britain's main opposition Labour Party on Tuesday and backed rival Owen Smith in a unity bid to oust embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"I'm announcing tonight that I'm withdrawing from this race and supporting Owen," Eagle told journalists in parliament.

Eagle pulled out of the challenge when it became clear that Smith had secured more nominations from the party's members of the British and European parliaments.

Eagle was the first to announce a challenge in the aftermath of Britain's June 23 referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU).

Labour had backed Britain staying in the EU.

Socialist stalwart Corbyn, who has a long history of euroscepticism, was accused of leading a half-hearted campaign that failed to stir traditional Labour-voting areas.

Corbyn lost the support of three-quarters of the party's MPs in a subsequent vote of confidence on June 28, triggering Eagle, and then Smith, to come forward.

"We have a Labour Party at the moment that is not working. We've got a leader that doesn't have the confidence of his members of parliament and isn't reaching out to the country," Eagle said.

"We need to have a strong and united Labour Party so we can be a good opposition, take the fight to the Conservative government and heal our country.

"So I am announcing tonight that I will be supporting Owen in that endeavour with all my enthusiasm and might.

"We are going to be in lock-step together arguing for an effective, united Labour Party doing its job."