British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday was dealt a severe blow when four of her ministers resigned over a “half-way house” divorce deal with the European Union, within 12 hours of her announcement that the Cabinet had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement.
Shailesh Vara, a Northern Ireland Minister to the Prime Minister, was the first to announce his resignation on Thursday. Vara resigned from the government saying this will leave the UK “in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation”.
This was followed by the resignation of Britain’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, the man who was involved with the drafting of the agreement with EU counterparts. It came as a big blow to Prime Minister May throwing her leadership in turmoil. Raab, 44, criticised May’s deal saying that it threatened the integrity of Britain and he could not support an indefinite backstop arrangement — to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland — where the EU had a veto over Britain’s ability to exit.
“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 said in his resignation letter.
“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,” Raab said. “This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust,” Raab said. “I cannot support the proposed deal,” the minister further said, according to Reuters.
Later, the welfare minister Esther McVey also called it quits accusing the prime minister of failing to honour the result of the 2016 referendum, saying she could not support it.
Another junior minister, Suella Braverman, too resigned on Thursday saying the proposed divorce deal was not what the British people voted for and risked breaking up the United Kingdom.
With less than five months remaining till Britain leaves the European Union on March 29, the resignations put PM May’s Brexit strategy in doubt.
Leaders of EU will meet on November 25 to sign off on the divorce deal, or Withdrawal Agreement, but with the ensuing drama in London, the question remains if the May government will survive till the end of the month. Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the government was “falling apart”.
“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,” said Jon Trickett, a member of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s senior team.
One lawmaker in May’s Conservative Party said more colleagues were either putting in letters to trigger a no-confidence vote in her leadership or were increasingly minded to do so. May’s administration could be toppled if a majority of her lawmakers vote against her.
— With input from agencies