Government in turmoil as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab quits over Theresa May's deal
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has plunged Theresa May's Government into crisis as he dramatically resigned just hours after she agreed a deal with the EU.
The leading Cabinet minister said he could not support a deal that posed a “very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” as he became the first of Mrs May's senior ministers to walk out over the plan.
Mr Raab - who only took on the job over the summer following the departure of David Davis - said he could not back an “indefinite backstop arrangement” for Norhern Ireland that he said would leave the European Union with a “veto over our ability to exit” a customs union with the bloc.
“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 decided to exit the arrangement,” he said.
“That arrangement is now also taken as the starting point for negotiating the Future Economic Partnership. If we accept that, it will severely prejustice the second phase of negotiations against the EU.”
The outgoing minister added: “I appreciate that you disagree with my judgement on these issues. I have weighed very carefully the alternative courses of action which the government could take, on which I have previously advised. Ultimately, you deserve a Brexit Secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction. I am only sorry, in good conssicend, that I cannot.”
The high profile exit came just hours before the Prime Minister was due to update MPs on her Brexit agreement. In a further blow, Mrs May was hit by the resignation of Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara this morning.
The depature of Mr Raab - the Cabinet's most high-profile Eurosceptic - will heap pressure on other top ministers who spoke out against Theresa May's deal to follow suit.
The outgoing Brexit Secretary was among 10 Cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey who openly criticised the plan at a marathon Cabinet session last night.
Labour seized on the departure of Mr Raab and said Mrs May had "no authority left".
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett: "The Government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit Secretary has refused to back the Prime Minister's Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unravelled before our eyes.
"This is the twentieth Minister to resign from Theresa May’s Government in her two year premiership. 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."
Under the Prime Minister's plan, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU 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 "temporary" customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.