by Elton Gomes
Two important ministers resigned from UK PM Theresa May’s cabinet on Monday, thereby further stalling the Brexit process. The dual resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis have made a considerable dent in May’s plan to exit the European Union (EU). Boris Johnson’s decision to quit comes days after May received formal backing from her cabinet for a controversial new Brexit plan. The new plan sought to link UK to EU rules and regulations on goods and agricultural products after the Brexit. Since its announcement, there have been several disagreements over delaying Brexit, and May sought an extension of the transition period to exit the EU.
Who has resigned?
David Davis, the minister directly responsible for managing Brexit, resigned on Monday and said that he could not support May’s plan to unite her cabinet. Davis told the BBC that he was not the ideal candidate to come through with May’s Brexit plan, as he had lost faith in it. He added that his decision to resign was a personal one, but he felt that the UK was “giving away too much and too easily” to the EU.
Echoing failure of May’s Brexit plan, the UK’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, also resigned on Monday. In his resignation letter, Johnson claimed that the UK would acquire “the status of a colony” if May’s soft Brexit plans were to be adopted. “The trouble is that I have practised the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat,” Johnson said in his resignation letter. “Since I cannot in all conscience champion these proposals, I have sadly concluded that I must go.” Johnson further mentioned that the Brexit “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.”
Why they resigned
Both Johnson and Davis seemed unhappy with May’s soft Brexit plans. Johnson accused May of allowing a near-possible Brexit to be clouded by failure. Johnson claimed that May’s vision of maintaining close ties with the EU would reduce the UK to a colony. Johnson wrote in his resignation letter that large parts of Britain’s economy would be “locked in the EU system” and UK would have no control over that system.
On the other hand, Brexit secretary David Davis, in his resignation letter, stated that “the current trend of policy and tactics” was making it “look less and less likely” that the UK would leave the customs union. Davis then said that the policy’s general direction could leave the UK in a weak position to negotiate. Moreover, Davis had objected to May’s plan at the meeting in Chequers, the official residence of the prime minister. He feared that the EU would attempt to further weaken the UK’s plans and his resignation would enable Britain to resist attempts to gain further concessions.
Who will replace them?
David Davis has been replaced by Dominic Raab, a minister advocating Brexit. Previously, Raab was housing minister and chief of staff to David Davis. Raab, in an interview, said that he supported a “full-fat Brexit” but “never said there weren’t risks with Brexit”. “So, yes, let’s take the risks seriously. I don’t want to be cavalier about that. But let’s also grasp the opportunities,” the Guardian reported.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt replaced Boris Johnson. Hunt, who was health secretary since the past six years, recently secured a €20 billion boost in funding for England’s healthcare system, the National Health Service. In the 2016 EU referendum, Hunt was a “Remain” campaigner, but has since become converted to support Brexit. Hunt said that at a crucial time for the UK, his job will be to “stand four-square behind the Prime Minister so that we can get through an agreement with the European Union,” the Independent reported.
What implications will this have on Brexit?
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, and Prime Minister May will insist on sticking to the date. Speaking in the House of Commons, after Johnson announced his resignation, May asserted that there won’t be another referendum on the final Brexit deal or the exit date. May could face a vote of no-confidence if 48 MPs issue letters to the chairman of the Tory party.
EU member states have expressed fears that Brexit negotiations could be thrown off-track after the dual resignations. Brussels, however, seemed unfazed by David Davis’ resignation as his role in the negotiations diminished considerably. Davis reportedly spent only four hours in Brussels in 2019, and Olly Robbins remains the most familiar man to the Brussels negotiation team.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.