Just days after her Brexit retreat Theresa May is scrambling to save her Brexit policy and her premiership. She lost three ministers in less than 24 hours, all citing concern over the direction of Brexit.
The haul began with the resignation of Brexit secretary, David Davis late last night. In his scathing resignation letter, he said: “the national interest requires a Secretary of State in my Department that is an enthusiastic believer in your approach and not merely a reluctant conscript.”
Full statement here.
Even though there has often been friction between the two, this still comes as a surprise since the Prime Minister seemed to have secured backing for her soft Brexit plans, after a deal was struck during talks at Chequers – the Prime Minister’s country residence this weekend.
May’s Brexit pitch would see the UK adopt a “common rule book” in a UK-EU free trade area. Effectively leaving the UK under some EU influence.
Later speaking to the BBC, Davis said: “The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one.
Adding: ““It seems to me we’re giving too much away, too easily, and that’s a dangerous strategy at this time.”
Tory MP Peter Bone praised Davis’s resignation as a “principled and brave decision” adding: “The PM’s proposals for a Brexit in name only are not acceptable.”
Junior minister Steve Baker followed Davis out the door, he said: “The problem with this particular Brexit is that it will not allow us to have proper control of what goes on in the United Kingdom. It’s the point David Davis made.”
Cabinet ministers thanked Davis for her service and explained how great a loss this is except Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who likened May’s Chequers deal to a “turd”.
Not long after he resigned.
He said: “Since I cannot in all conscience champion these proposals, I have sadly concluded that I must go.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”
Today’s slew of resignations have sparked a mini re-shuffle. Dominic Raab, former housing minister replaced Davis. Rabb is a prominent leave campaigner and is an ally of environment secretary Michael Gove. Raab was sacked by May two year ago in her first 2016 cabinet re-shuffle.
The highly unpopular Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will replace Johnson at the Foreign Office, Matt Hancock will move over to health, with Jeremy Wright replacing him as Culture Secretary.
Rumours of a revolt are circulating. Tory MPs could trigger a motion of no confidence forcing a leadership contest. Under current rules 15% of Tory MPs must write to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, to trigger a vote of no confidence in Mrs May. That’s about 48 MPs.
Labour welcome this. In a tweet, leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “With her Government in chaos, if she clings on, it’s clear she’s more interested in hanging on for her own sake than serving the people of our country.”
Speaking exclusively with TPN, shadow minister, Clive Lewis said: “This is a blow to what little of Theresa May’s authority survived her botched General Election.
“She should, in the National interest, step aside call a new GE and let Labour do the job of ending this nightmare go to once and for all.”
Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Select Committee said: “Reality has now firmly bitten for the Brexiteers.
“The Chequers package provides a good basis for negotiations. The debate now should’ve been with the EU not within the Conservative Party, but a small group just won’t accept anything other than an ideological Brexit which will harm the UK.”
May faces another week of tough diplomacy meetings to keep her Brexit plans on track as well as the planned visit of President Donald Trump this weekend.