Fresh blow for Theresa May as minister quits over Brexit deal
Theresa May has been dealt yet another blow after a minister quit the Government in protest at the Brexit deal she has struck with the EU.
Shailesh Vara, who voted Remain in the referendum, said the draft agreement would mean the UK was "reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart".
The North West Cambridgeshire MP said "it has been a joy and privilege" to serve as a Northern Ireland minister, but the contents of the 585-page deal had left him with no option but to resign.
Under Mrs May's plan, the UK will remain in a temporary customs union with the EU after Brexit as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.
However, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.
And the customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.
The draft agreement does allow the UK to extend the post-Brexit implementation period - which is due to run until the end of 2020 - on a one-off basis, but the 585-page document does not specify how long that could potentially last for.
In his letter, Mr Vara said the agreement would leave the UK "in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation".
He added: "Given the past performance of the EU, there is every possibility that the UK-EU trade deal that we seek will take years to conclude. We will be locked in a Customs Arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say.
"Worse, we will not be free to leave the Customs Arrangement uniltaterally if we wish to do so.
"Northern Ireland in the meantime will be subject to a different relationship with the EU from the rest of the UK and whilst I agree there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must be respected.
"With respect Prime Minister, this Agreement does not provide for the the United Kingdom being a sovereign, independent country leaving the shackles of the EU, however it is worded."
Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey, who is from Northern Ireland welcomed Mr Vara's resignation.
She tweeted: "Well done @ShaileshVara. This deal is not in the interest of the U.K. in general and Northern Ireland in particular. In your time as a Minister your respect for NI people was noted in contrast to others!"
The resignation came just hours before Mrs May is due to be grilled by MPs in the Commons, and will increase speculation that other ministers could follow suit and trigger a potential leadership challenge against the Prime Minister.