Andrea Leadsom quits Cabinet over Brexit as Theresa May's time as Prime Minister nears the end

Posted On: 
22nd May 2019

Andrea Leadsom has quit the Cabinet in protest at Theresa May's latest attempt to win MPs' backing for her Brexit plans.

Andrea Leadsom told Theresa May she no longer backed her on Brexit.
Credit: 
PA Images

In yet another devastating blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Leader said she no longer believed the Government's approach "will deliver on the referendum result".

Her announcement - on the eve of the European elections - came as Mrs May's time in office entered its final days, with Tory MPs warning she must resign in 48 hours or face a leadership challenge.

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The dramatic developments came just a day after the PM revealed what would be contained in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the legislation needed to take the UK out of the EU.

Most controversially, it will give MPs a vote on whether or not there should be a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

In a hard-hitting resignation letter, Ms Leadsom said: "I stayed in Cabinet to shape and fight for Brexit. There have been some uncomfortable compromises along the way, but you have had my determined support and loyalty in your efforts to deliver Brexit as our shared goal.

"I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result."

Ms Leadsom said that she did not believe that Mrs May's Brexit deal would lead to "a truly sovereign United Kingdom".

She added: "I have always maintained that a second referendum dangerously divisive, and I do not support the Government willingly facilitating such a concession.

"It would also risk undermining our Union, which is something I passionately want to see strengthened."

Elsewhere in the letter, the leading eurosceptic said some Brexit policies had been announced by the Government without being "properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet ministers".

And she claimed there had been "a complete breakdown of collective responsibility" after Number 10 turned a blind eye to Remain-backing ministers not voting with the Government on some Brexit legislation.

Ms Leadsom added: "I know there are important elections tomorrow and many Conservatives have worked hard to support our excellent candidates.

"I considered carefully the timing of this decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as leader of the House tomorrow to announce a Bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose."

And calling on the Prime Minister to consider quitting, she said: "No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, bu I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party."

Three other Cabinet ministers - David Mundell, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt - were all snubbed by the PM on Wednesday after demanding to see her to make clear their unhappiness over the WAB's promise on a referendum vote.

Sources close to Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said the move was already being "exploited" by the SNP to push the case for another independence referendum, which the UK government opposes.

PoliticsHome understands that Downing Street cancelled a meeting with one of the three ministers with just 10 minutes notice.

Ms Leadsom, who made it to the final two candidates in the last Tory leadership race before pulling out in the wake of a disastrous interview with The Times, is expected to throw her hat into the ring again when Mrs May resigns.

One Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome her resignation was a "leadership klaxon".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Andrea Leadsom has served with distinction and great ability as a member of the government, and the Prime Minister is grateful for all of her work. We are disappointed that she has chosen to resign, and the Prime Minister remains focused on delivering the Brexit people voted for."

Labour chairman Ian Lavery said: "The Prime Minister’s authority is shot and her time is up.

"While the Tories are ripping themselves apart, our country is in crisis. The government has made a catastrophic mess of the Brexit negotiations, our steel industry is under threat and universal credit is pushing people into poverty. 

"For the sake of the country, Theresa May needs to go, and we need an immediate general election."