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Brexit deal in chaos as Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara quits over Theresa May’s agreement

Cabinet ministers finally approved the PM's draft agreement with Brussels in a dramatic five-hour meeting

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 15 November 2018 08:43 GMT
Theresa May says cabinet has agreed draft Brexit withdrawal agreement

Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara has quit the government in protest at Theresa May‘s Brexit deal, which he claimed would leave the UK in a “half-way house” outside the EU.

The news will come as a major blow to the prime minister, who is on high alert for resignations after the Cabinet finally approved her draft agreement with Brussels in a dramatic five-hour meeting on Wednesday.

It also comes amid widespread speculation that furious Conservative MPs could topple Ms May by submitting enough letters of no confidence to trigger a leadership challenge.

Mr Vara, a former lawyer, was appointed as a minister in the Northern Ireland Office earlier this year, aamid deep concerns over how to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “The EU referendum offered a simple choice – to either stay in or leave the EU. The result was decisive with the UK public voting to leave, and that is what we as their elected representatives, must deliver.

“The agreement put forward however, does not do that as it leaves the UK in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation.”

Mr Vara added: “We are a proud nation and it is a say day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart.

“We can and must do better than this. The people of the UK deserve better.”

His resignation plunges Ms May’s deal into fresh turmoil only hours before she will attempt to sell the agreement to MPs, in what promises to be a dramatic Commons appearance.

The prime minister also faces a battle to get the deal through parliament as Brexiteer Tories - as well as some Remainers – lined up to condemn the plan, accusing her of breaking promises and leaving the UK at the mercy of Brussels.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government, have been vocal in their criticism, threatening to break their deal with the Conservatives and vote down the deal.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson led praise for Mr Vara, who he described as “a man of his word”.

Influential Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker also backed him, saying “Shailesh Vara is right. Many of us will not accept this dreadful deal.”

His resignation came as European Council president Donald Tusk announced an emergency summit to seal the Brexit deal on November 25.

Mr Tusk said the draft deal was “lose-lose” and about “damage control”, and told reporters that he did not share Ms May’s ”enthusiasm” for Brexit.

However endorsed the agreement, stating that it achieved the EU’s two main objectives: the “limitation of the damage caused by Brexit”, and securing “the vital interest and principles of the 28 member states and the European Union as a whole”.

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