Dominic Raab resigns: Brexit secretary quits Theresa May’s government in protest over deal

'I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 15 November 2018 11:02 GMT
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Theresa May says cabinet has agreed draft Brexit withdrawal agreement

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has resigned from Theresa May’s government within hours of her cabinet approving an agreement to leave the EU.

Announcing his departure on Twitter, he said: “Today, I have resigned as Brexit Secretary. I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Mr Raab’s dramatic resignation will plunge Ms May’s leadership into fresh crisis, and comes less than an hour after Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara also decided to quit in protest at her Brexit deal.

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

In his resignation letter, Mr Raab said: “I cannot support the proposed deal for two reasons. First, I believe that the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

“Second, I cannot support an indefinite backstop arrangement, where the EU holds a veto over our ability to exit. The terms of the backstop amount to a hybrid of the EU customs union and single market obligations.

“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 decide the exit arrangement.

“That arrangement is now also taken as the starting point for negotiating the future economic partnership. If we accept that, it will severely prejudice the second phase of negotiations against the UK.

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“Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election. This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust.”

The prime minister cleared the first hurdle when senior ministers backed her draft deal with Brussels after a fiery five-hour meeting on Wednesday night.

However she faces an uphill battle to get the deal through parliament amid a furious backlash from Brexiteer Tories and some Remainers, who accused her of breaking promises and leaving the UK subordinate to Brussels.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government, has threatened to vote down the deal, and Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said his party would also oppose it.

But questions now hang over whether the prime minister will be able to take her plan forward, after losing such a senior member of her top team.

Mr Raab is the second Brexit Secretary to resign this year – after his predecessor David Davis dramatically stepped down in July.

Ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson resigned within hours of Mr Davis, his fellow Brexiteer, while Mr Johnson’s brother Jo stood down as Transport Minister only last week, to campaign for a second referendum.

Critics said the resignations proved Ms May’s plan has “unravelled before our eyes” and called on the prime minister to consider her position.

Remain-backing Tory Anna Soubry said: “Raab’s resignation marks the end of PM’s withdrawal agreement.

“This is v serious the PM will clearly be considering her position. My own view is that we need a government of national unity and we need it now.”

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said: “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.”

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