Most senior Brexit official quits United Kingdom government

Clay Curtis
July 9, 2018

FILE PHOTO - Britain's Secretary of State for Departing the EU David Davis delivers a speech on Britain's security relationship with the EU after Brexit, in London, June 6, 2018.

In a resignation letter sent to May late Sunday night United Kingdom time, Brexit Minister David Davis said it was looking "less and less likely" that the Conservative-led government would be able to deliver on its "manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market".

Davis signed up to the plan agreed by the Cabinet in closed talks at Chequers on Friday.

The move comes on the eve of a major test for the Prime Minister as she faces first the House of Commons and then a potentially stormy meeting of Tory MPs and peers on Monday.

"As I said at Cabinet, the "common rule book" policy hands control of large swathes of our economy to the European Union and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense".

"I am also unpersuaded that our negotiating approach will not just lead to further demands for concessions", he said, concluding that his post required "an enthusiastic believer in your approach, and not merely a reluctant conscript".

Yet after reflecting on the situation, Mr Davis and Mr Baker apparently decided they could not live with such a soft Brexit after all.

"I would like to thank you warmly for everything you have done over the past two years as Secretary of State to shape our departure from the European Union", she said. Mr Rees-Mogg refused to support her and said that "she would be well-advised to revisit her Brexit policy". He was a strong pro-Brexit voice in a Cabinet divided between supporters of a clean break with the bloc and those who want to keep close ties.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Brexit hardliner, told Sky News: "This is very important".

"[Mr Davis'] departure raises more questions about what came out of that meeting".

Tory Andrew Bridgen said he could not support the proposals that came out of Chequers, describing them as a breach of the red lines and that he wouldn't support it "even if the European Union were paying us for it".

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: "This is absolute chaos and Theresa May has no authority left".

It is unclear whether Brussels will accept this, after repeatedly warning Britain it can not "cherry-pick" bits of its single market.

During his time as Brexit secretary, he clashed with May repeatedly, and his resignation risks widening divisions within the Conservative Party over Europe, with all eyes on whether anyone will be nominated to replace him, or if fellow Leave campaigner and May critic Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will follow him out of the door.

Davis, a sharp operator and a gut-instinct politician, was a "Leave" campaigner in the referendum on Britain's European Union membership.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie said he had seen a three page summary of what was agreed at Chequers but was awaiting the publication of the full white paper later this week. May's office confirmed that Davis had resigned but had no comment yet on the reasons.

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