After many months of rumours, David Davis, who has been leading UK negotiations to leave the EU, has quit his role as Brexit Secretary.
His unhappiness in government has been no secret for some time, but after the prime minister’s Chequers agreement with cabinet ministers to pursue closer ties with the EU than he desired, he found his position untenable
He felt that he was no longer the best person to deliver the PM’s Brexit plan that was agreed by the cabinet on Friday, as he did not “believe” in it.
After a visit to Downing Street on Sunday he concluded that he had no choice but to walk after he felt the UK was giving away too much and too easily to the EU in the negotiations.
The move throws doubt on to how secure the government’s Brexit strategy is.
The resignation is a blow to Mrs May as she seeks to win over Eurosceptic MPs to her proposed Brexit vision, which would form the basis of the UK’s position in on-going talks with the EU.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree how trade will work between the UK and the EU afterwards.
There have been differences within the Conservative Party over how far the UK should prioritise the economy by compromising on issues such as leaving the remit of the European Court of Justice and ending free movement of people.
Mrs May’s Conservative Party only has a majority in Parliament with the support in key votes of the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, so any split raises questions about whether her plan could survive a Commons vote – and has also led to renewed questions about whether she will face a challenge to her position.
In a sign of how delicately positioned the numbers are on Brexit strategy it has emerged that the government has taken the unusual step of arranging a briefing for opposition Labour MPs on the detail of the Brexit plan agreed on Friday.
In his resignation letter, Mr Davis told Mrs May that “The current trend of policy and tactics was making it look less and less likely that the UK would leave the customs union and single market.The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one.”
Dominic Raab, who campaigned for Leave during the UK’s 2016 EU referendum, has been promoted from housing minister to take over from Mr Davis.