Blow to UK’s Brexit plans as secretary David Davis resigns
The future of the border post Brexit remains up in the air this morning following David Davis’ decision to resign as the UK’s Brexit Secretary.
Davis dramatically quit the ministerial role last night after criticising his government’s approach to Brexit.
As well as throwing recent Brexit agreements into doubt, it has left Prime Minister Theresa May battling to keep her government in power.
She had hoped that the Cabinet agreement secured on Friday at Chequers would help her deliver the “right Brexit” for the UK, with an offer to Brussels to share a “common rulebook” on goods and form a new UK-EU free trade area.
But Mr Davis, whose departure as Brexit Secretary also triggered the resignation of departmental ally Steve Baker, lashed out at the proposals just 48 hours after being part of the cabinet that agreed them.
In his resignation letter, he said the “current trend of policy and tactics” was making it look “less and less likely” that Brexit would deliver on the referendum result and the Tory commitments to leave the EU customs union and single market.
Mr Davis said “the general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one”.
The “common rulebook” plan “hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense,” he wrote to Mrs May.
“I am also unpersuaded that our negotiating approach will not just lead to further demands for concessions,” he added.
The responsibility for leading the negotiations should now go to an “enthusiastic believer in your approach, and not merely a reluctant conscript”, he said.
In her response, the prime minister said she disagreed with Mr Davis’s characterisation of the Chequers deal, which she described as a “precise, responsible and credible” approach to the negotiations.
“I am sorry that the Government will not have the benefit of your continued expertise and counsel as we secure this deal and complete the process of leaving the EU, but 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 EU, and the new role the UK will forge on the world stage as an independent, self-governing nation once again,” she said.
Last night British Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: “This is absolute chaos and Theresa May has no authority left.”
He said Ms May was in office but not in power. “She cannot deliver Brexit, and our country is at a complete standstill. We can’t go on like this. Britain needs a functioning government.”
Reacting to news of Mr Davis’s resignation late last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “We’ll see how things develop. As far as I am concerned, when Theresa May speaks she speaks for the UK government and that’s the basis I’ll be working on.”
Mr Varadkar said the UK must be a full member of the European Single Market, or else stay out of it entirely, in response to Ms May’s latest Brexit plan.
The Taoiseach said he was more optimistic than before that an EU-UK exit deal could be struck by the end of the year.
However, Mr Varadkar said he had “some concerns about the workability of the UK’s customs” proposals and the plan’s effect on the integrity of the single market.
The new approach envisages a new UK-EU customs area, although Britain could apply different tariffs from the EU. It would also align Britain to the European Single Market for goods, while moving away from it for services.