The government in UK led by Prime Minister Theresa May plunged into a deep crisis on Monday after a ‘mass rebellion’ by several ministers, who quit the government protesting over the Brexit deal.
The first to announce his resignation was Brexit Minister David Davis, who said that he believed the UK’s plans had become “diluted” and that he would be a “reluctant conscript” if he stayed in his position to push May’s latest Brexit proposal that was adopted by the cabinet on Friday.
In her reply to Davis, May thanked him for his service but also laid out 12 reasons why she did”not agree” with his comments. She wrote, “I am sorry that you have chosen to leave the government when we have already made so much progress towards delivering a smooth and successful Brexit, and when we are only eight months from the date set in law when the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.
“At Chequers on Friday, we as the cabinet agreed a comprehensive and detailed proposal which provides a precise, responsible and credible basis for progressing our negotiations towards a new relationship between the UK and the EU after we leave in March.”
Then came the bigger bombshell in the shape of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announcing his resignation on the same issue. In his resignation letter to May, Johnson wrote, “Dear Theresa, It is more than two years since the British people voted to leave the European Union on an unambiguous and categorical promise that if they did so they would be taking back control of their democracy.
“They were told that they would be able to manage their own immigration policy, repatriate the sums of UK cash currently spent by the EU, and, above all, that they would be able to pass laws independently and in the interests of the people of this country.
“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.
“That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.”
May thanked him for his letter ‘relinquishing the ofﬁce of Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ but did not agree with his assertion on Brexit deal being struck by her government.
She wrote, “As I outlined at Chequers, the agreement we reached requires the full, collective support of Her Majesty’s Government. During the EU referendum campaign, collective responsibility on EU policy was temporarily suspended. As we developed our policy on Brexit, I have allowed Cabinet colleagues considerable latitude to express their individual views. But the agreement we reached on Friday marks the point where that is no longer the case, and if you are not able to provide the support we need to secure this deal in the interests of the United Kingdom, it is right that you should step down.
“As you do so, I would like to place on record my appreciation of the service you have given to our country, and to the Conservative Party, as Mayor of London and as Foreign Secretary – not least for the passion that you have demonstrated in promoting a Global Britain to the world as we leave the European Union.”
Faced with a string of resignations, May was quick to announce a cabinet reshuffle. The long-serving health secretary Jeremy Hunt was announced as Johnson’s successor, while Dominic Raab was appointed as new Brexit Minister in place of Davis. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock was named the new Health Secretary in place of Hunt, while Jeremy Wright was moved out of his Attorney General’s role to replace Hancock. Geoffrey Cox was later announced to be the new Attorney General.
Many pundits believed that May quickly announcing a cabinet reshuffle was a smart move since it enabled her to starve off a possible confidence vote. BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said that what Boris Johnson says next could change the dynamic a lot.
She said that May haf “done what some urged her to do for months” – namely to face down David Davis and Boris Johnson. It also refreshes the cabinet, “ties in Brexiteers with ambition, Gove and Raab”, and so “has space for inevitable compromise with EU” – and Eurosceptics are weak as they won’t unite, she added.