Government minister resigns with brutal attack on Theresa May's Brexit strategy

Posted On: 
12th June 2018

A Tory minister has resigned live on stage over Theresa May's approach to Brexit.

Philip Lee said he wanted to tell his children he had done all he could to stop a hard Brexit.
Credit: 
PA Images

Justice Minister Dr Philip Lee stunned Westminster by declaring he was quitting to vote against the Government in a crucial Commons showdown.

He said the Brexit policy ministers were following was “detrimental to the people we are elected to serve”.

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And he called for a fresh referendum so the public can give "their confirmation" to the final deal the Government reaches with Brussels.

It came as Downing Street rejected a fresh attempt to break the deadlock between the Government and Tory rebels over whether Parliament should take control of the Brexit process if MPs reject the final deal.

In a speech to the Bright Blue think tank, Dr Lee said: "It is fundamentally important that parliament should have a voice so it can final outcome in the interests of the people it serves.

"A failed choice between a bad deal and a cliff edge no deal. A vote between bad and worse is not a meaningful choice. 

“A true choice between a bad deal and a cliff-edge no deal. A vote between bad and worse is not a true choice.

“It would so breach fundamental principles of human rights and parliamentary sovereignty that we would not recognise it as being valid in other countries.”

He added: "I am very sad to announce that I must resign as a minister so that I can properly speak out for my country and my constituents."

He followed the dramatic statement with a string of tweets explaining his position.

In a statement on his website, he said: "Sadly, from within government I have found it virtually impossible to help bring sufficient change to the course on which we are bound.

"The practicalities, logistics and implications of leaving the EU are far more complex than was ever envisaged and certainly more complex than the people were told in 2016. The UK is not going to be ready in time, neither is the EU, and both would suffer from a rushed or fudged agreement."

He added: "In my medical experience, if a course of treatment is not working, then I review it. I also have a duty to get my patient’s informed consent for that action."

The resignation is a huge blow for the Prime Minister as MPs prepare to vote on Lords amendments to the EU Withrdawal Bill.

Watch Dr Lee resign below in the final few minutes of his speech at the Bright Blue conference.

Pro-Remain Tory MP Heidi allen backed Mr Lee on Twitter, saying: "This is what integrity looks like."

Former minister Nick Boles said he respected the decision and took a swipe at Brexit Secretary David Davis, who has threatened to resign on numerous occasions.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable meanwhile said Dr Lee was showing "courage" his colleagues "lacked".