Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has sensationally quit government saying he can’t back the deal he helped create.
Raab, who only took over in the summer after David Davis resigned in protest over the Prime Minister’s withdrawal strategy, said he ‘cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU’.
His shock departure came amid a furious backlash from Brexit-backing Tories to the deal agreed by UK and EU negotiators four months ahead of the UK’s scheduled withdrawal on March 29.
Hours earlier Shailesh Vara quit as minister of state for Northern Ireland, saying May’s agreement, ‘leaves the UK in a halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation’.
One Tory sources said: ‘I fully expect the floodgates to open now. There might not be a cabinet left by the end of the day.’
In his letter to the prime minister, Raab said the deal represented a ‘very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom’ because of provisions for Northern Ireland.
He also said he could not accept ‘an indefinite backstop arrangement’ for the Irish border.
He said: ‘No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement.’
Raab added: ‘Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election.
‘This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust.’
The resignations came as European Council president Donald Tusk announced an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on November 25, at which the withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future relations will be finalised and formalised.
Westminster is braced for further resignations, amid widespread expectations that the Prime Minister may face a challenge to her position from Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence in her leadership.
Raab had been a surprise choice as Brexit Secretary when Davis, along with foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit minister Steve Baker, resigned in protest at May’s Chequers plan in July.
As the UK’s ministerial point man in negotiations he made repeated trips to Brussels for talks with EU negotiator Michel Barnier as he and civil servants tried to hammer out a workable withdrawal agreement.
The pound fell heavily against most major currencies after his resignation. Sterling dropped 1.1% to 1.28 US dollars and was 1.2% lower at 1.13 euros.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said the government was ‘falling apart before our eyes as, for a second time, the Brexit secretary has refused to back the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan’.
‘This is the 20th minister to resign from Theresa May’s government in her two-year premiership,’ he said.
‘Theresa May has no authority left and is clearly incapable of delivering a Brexit deal that commands even the support of her cabinet, let alone parliament and the people of our country.’
Remain-supporting Tory MP Anna Soubry added on Twitter that Raab’s resignation ‘marks the end of PMs Withdrawal Agreement’ and possibly her premiership.
Soubry added: ‘No PM deserves to be so badly treated.
‘Raab signed up to her Withdrawal Agreement allowing her to make her statement after cabinet knowing he’d resign in time for the 9am News bulletins the next morning. Shameful.’