Fresh blow for Theresa May as Brexit minister quits government over Jeremy Corbyn talks

Posted On: 
3rd April 2019

A second Tory minister has quit the Government within hours over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit as she seeks a new compromise with Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Heaton-Harris said he could no longer countenance staying in the goverment after Theresa May moved to delay Brexit again
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris followed Nigel Adams by handing in his resignation in the wake of the Prime Minister's change of tack.

He said Mrs May's moves to avoid a no-deal scenario had made his job “irrelevant”.

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In his resignation letter, the Daventry MP also warned that further extensions to the Article 50 process would “diminish faith in our political system”.

He said: “In my current job, I’ve had the responsibility of helping to coordinate our preparations for if we were to leave the European Union without a negotiated deal.

"As I believe you know, these preparations are well advanced and whilst I would have preferred to leave the European Union with your deal, I truly believe our country would have swiftly overcome any immediate issues of leaving without a deal and gone on to thrive.”

Mr Heaton-Harris warned the Prime Minister that “every time we seek an extension to this process we diminish faith in our political system and the good people, from all political parties, who serve within it".

And he added: "I simply cannot support any further extension to Article 50 and this obviously means I cannot stay in Government."

His announcement came as the Prime Minister met Mr Corbyn for initial talks on agreeing a joint Brexit plan to present to MPs next week.

In his own resignation letter on Wednesday morning, government whip Mr Adams accused Mrs May of committing a “grave error” by “legitimising” Jeremy Corbyn.

He said: "It now seems that you and your cabinet have decided that a deal – cooked up with a Marxist who has never once in his political life put British interests first – is better than no deal.”

A succession of Tory MPs also lined up at Prime Minister's Questions to criticise Mrs May.

Caroline Johnson said: “If it comes to the point when we have to balance the risk of a no-deal Brexit versus the risk of letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, anti-semite led government, what does she think at that point is the lowest risk?”

Mr Heaton-Harris is the 36th minister to resign within the past year, with No10 refusing to reappoint MPs to the empty roles until the Brexit turmoil has settled.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister was saddened to hear of this decision by a dedicated and skilful minister to resign from government.

"Chris Heaton-Harris has been doing crucial work in ensuring that the country is prepared to leave the EU in all scenarios, and the PM thanks him for his service."

Meanwhile, Labour MP Marsha De Cordova has written to the Prime Minister pleading with her to appoint a new disability minister after Sarah Newton resigned from the role three weeks ago.

Ms de Cordova accused the Government of showing “disregard” for disabled people over the move.

“On 27th March 2019, the Conservative Party Vice-Chairman stated that the positon would stay vacant until Brexit is ‘resolved’,” she wrote.

“It is shameful that ill and disabled people are being forced to wait for a new minister to be appointed whilst the Government is consumed by a Brexit crisis of its own making.”