Andrea Leadsom has resigned from the cabinet in protest at Theresa May’s latest Brexit plan as the Prime Minister was fighting for her political life.
Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons and a former Tory leadership candidate in 2016, said that she could “no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result” on another remarkable day for British politics.
In response, May said she was “sorry” to receive Leadsom’s resignation letter - but said she disagreed with the assessment she gave about the government’s approach now.
Earlier, May survived a growing coup to oust her from Downing Street amid Tory fury over plans for a second Brexit referendum vote.
In her resignation letter, Leadsom said she was “proud” to have served in May’s government since 2016, and had stayed in the cabinet to “shape and fight for Brexit” despite some “uncomfortable compromises along the way”.
Leadsom, one of a number of Brexit-supporting colleagues in the so-called Pizza Club, is likely to launch a leadership bid when finally May steps down.
Outlining four concerns, she said: “1. I do not believe that we will be a truly sovereign United Kingdom through the deal that is now proposed;
“2. I have always maintained that a second referendum would be dangerously divisive, and I do not support the government willingly facilitating such a concession. It would also risk undermining our Union which is something I passionately want to see strengthened;
“3. There has been such a breakdown of government processes that recent Brexit-related legislative proposals have not been properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet members;
“4. The tolerance to those in Cabinet who have advocated policies contrary to the government’s position has led to a complete breakdown of collective responsibility.”
It is with great regret and a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the Government. pic.twitter.com/f2SOXkaqmH— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) May 22, 2019
Explaining the timing of her decision to resign on the eve of polling day in the European elections, Leadsom said: “I considered carefully the timing of this decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as Leader of the House tomorrow, to announce a Bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose.
“I fully respect the integrity, resolution and determination that you have shown during your time as Prime Minister.
“No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party.”
The Prime Minister said: “I do not agree with you that the deal which we have negotiated with the European Union means that the United Kingdom will not become a sovereign country.
“If the deal is passed, the UK will leave the European Union. We will leave its Common Agricultural Policy and its Common Fisheries Policy.
“We will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and make our own laws in Westminster and our devolved parliaments.
“We will stop sending vast annual sums of taxpayers’ money to the EU, and spend it on our priorities instead – such as our National Health Service and our children’s schools.”
Her resignation is the most public sign of deep unrest among politicians serving in May’s Cabinet.
On Wednesday, home secretary Sajid Javid, defence secretary Penny Mordaunt and Scottish secretary David Mundell all requested one-on-one meetings with May to demand she strip her proposed Brexit legislation of its controversial clauses on a referendum and UK-EU customs rules.
However, a defiant May turned down requests for meetings and was refusing to budge from a plan to try a fourth time to get her Brexit plans through parliament, which is likely to be early next month.
Under huge pressure, May agreed to meet Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, on Friday to discuss her future.
HuffPost UK has learned that if May refuses to budge next week, she faces a mass resignation of junior ministers next Monday, the day after the European elections results.