Double blow for Theresa May as Esther McVey joins Dominic Raab in Brexit Cabinet walkout
Theresa May’s Government has been plunged into turmoil as the Prime Minister suffered two major Cabinet resignations over her Brexit plan.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was followed out the door by Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, with both top ministers tearing into her newly-struck agreement with the EU just hours after a crunch Cabinet summit designed to sign off on the plan.
In a further blow, Mrs May was also hit by the resignations of Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara and Brexit Minister Suella Braverman this morning.
In an explosive resignation statement, 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 Northern 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 conscience, that I cannot.”
The exit was followed less than an hour later by Ms McVey, who was reportedly shouted down at last night’s Cabinet meeting.
In her letter, she told the Prime Minister her Brexit deal “does not honour the result of the referendum”
“Indeed, it doesn’t meet the tests you set from the outset of your premiership,” the Work and Pensions Secretary added.
“Repeatedly you have said we must regain control of our money, our borders and our laws and develop our own independent trade policy. I have always supported you to deliver on those objectives.
“Even after Chequers when you knew I shared the concerns of a very significant number of colleagues, I believed that we could still work collectively to honour the will of the British people and secure the right outcome for the future of our country. The deal fails to do this.”
The departing Work and Pensions Secretary said Mrs May’s EU agreement would “be judged by the entire country” and would “bind the hands of not only this, but future Governments in pursuing genuine free trade policies”.
The high profile exit came as the Prime Minister was due to update MPs on her Brexit agreement.
Labour seized on the departure of Mr Raab and said Mrs May had "no authority left".
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett added: "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.