David Davis: My resignation will strengthen Theresa May
David Davis has insisted his resignation as Brexit Secretary will end up strengthening Theresa May.
The former Cabinet minister - who dramatically quit last night - said his departure would “enhance the effectiveness” of her Brexit strategy.
And he called on Conservative MPs eager to topple the Prime Minister to back off and support her instead.
In a stunning move which rocked Westminster, the Conservative big-hitter stormed out of the Cabinet saying he had become "a reluctant conscript" to Mrs May’s plan for Brexit.
His decision to quit came barely 48 hours after the Cabinet appeared to have finally agreed its Brexit strategy - throwing the Government into chaos.
He was swiftly followed out the door by Brexit minister Steve Baker, although his colleague Suella Braverman is said to have stayed in post.
This morning he insisted he would not have been a “plausible” salesman for the strategy hammered out by ministers, as he felt it conceded too much to Brussels and would only be watered down further.
But he raised eyebrows when he argued his destabilising move would not weaken his former boss.
“She has got to have a Brexit Secretary who will deliver on her strategy,” he told the Today programme on Radio 4. “That’s not weakening - that’s actually enhancing the effectiveness of her strategy.”
Rumours were swirling at the weekend that pro-Brexit Tory MPs furious at the plan for a soft-Brexit were collecting letters to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
But Mr Davis said he would not be among them, adding: “I won’t be encouraging people to do that I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Ruling himself out as a potential leadership candidate, he argued: “If I’d wanted to bring down Theresa May, now is not the time. It would have been after the election when we were weakened.
“But what did I do instead? I flew down from Yorkshire in the middle of the night to be with her at six in the morning to say ‘keep going and I will support you’.
“I was the most vocal supporter of her. I think you should take from that what my view of Theresa May is - that she is somebody who is a good PM and deserves support.”
But pro-Brexit Tory backbencher Andrea Jenkyns said it was time to change the party leader and replace her with “a Brexiteer Prime Minister”.
“I think Theresa May’s premiership is over but that’s obviously my opinion,” the Morley and Outwood MP told the same programme.
“Really I want [a Prime Minister] who passionately believes in Brexit and will provide true leadership and a positive pro-Brexit vision for our country,” she added.
Fellow pro-Brexit Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin meanwhile chimed in: "If the Prime Minister thinks she has consent and support from all of her Cabinet she is deluding herself."
He added that the Cabinet deal on Brexit amounted to “fake sovereignty” and warned Mrs May she could be toppled if she fails to change course.
One Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome a ballot of Tory MPs was inevitable - if only to shut down a Brexiteer rebellion.
"Ultimately we'll be having the MP ballot on whether she stays,” they said, adding however that the result would be “emphatically” in her favour.
'NOW OR NEVER'
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt leapt to the defence of the Prime Minister, urging colleagues to back her and take the “now or never” opportunity to deliver Brexit.
“The one thing that will damage our country the most is if we don’t get behind our Prime Minister,” he told the Today programme.
“The only people who are rejoicing about what has happened this morning are people like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson who want to stop Brexit at any cost….
“What could happen is you have Brexit paralysis which would be immensely damaging. And I think what we need to do is recognise it’s now or never.
“If we are going to deliver the clean Brexit that the British people want we have to get behind Theresa May, allow her to negotiate that deal that respects what they voted for.”