Theresa May clings to power after Boris Johnson and David Davis sensationally quit

Chris Parsons
News Editor
  • Boris Johnson follows David Davis and quits Theresa May’s Cabinet
  • Johnson says he fears ‘Brexit dream is over’ amid widening Brexiteer backlash
  • Davis says PM has created ‘weak negotiating position’
  • Theresa May gives defiant speech in House of Commons as job hangs by a thread
  • She says he will fight attempt to usurp her
  • Dominic Raab named new Brexit Secretary; Jeremy Hunt new Foreign Secretary
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg says PM’s plans in tatters – but that she should stay in job

Theresa May has said she will fight any leadership challenge after Boris Johnson sensationally quit the Cabinet and said he feared that the ‘Brexit dream is dying’.

The Prime Minister seems determined to cling to power as she warned Tory MPs in a crunch meeting that any attempt to overthrow her could hand the keys of 10 Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn.

The Foreign Secretary quit his post on Monday afternoon just hours after David Davis stepped down as Brexit Secretary.

In his damning resignation letter, Mr Johnson told the PM he feared the U.K. is ‘heading for a semi-Brexit’, adding: ‘It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them.’

The high-profile resignation came after the PM’s Brexit summit at Chequers on Friday where she presented her negotiation position to government ministers.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street, London, for a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday July 3 (PA)

Although Mrs May had called for unity among the Cabinet, she has now been hit by a double resignation as outraged Brexiteers accused her of pursuing a dangerous strategy that is giving “too much away, too easily” and leaving the UK in a “weak negotiating position”.

The Prime Minister is now desperately trying to hang on to power and, despite earlier reports suggesting some Tory MPs were confident they had enough support to trigger a leadership contest, it appeared that, by Monday night, the PM had dodged a bullet and was safe to fight another day.

Earlier, asked if Mrs May would fight any attempt to remove her through a vote of no confidence by rebel Tory MPs, a senior Downing Street source said: “Yes.”

On a dramatic day in the House of Commons, a defiant Mrs May faced down MPs just minutes after Mr Johnson’s resignation, stating that she would continue with her Brexit plans as before.

Theresa May in the House of Commons minutes after Boris Johnson’s resignation on Monday.

She said: “This is a Brexit that is in our national interest… It is the right Brexit deal for Britain.”

Calling on the EU to “intensify” negotiations over the summer, she said: “What we are proposing is challenging to the EU, it requires them to think again and look beyond the positions they have taken so far and agree a fair balance of rights and obligations.”

Addressing the resignations directly, she paid tribute to Boris Johnson and David Davis but said they “do not agree about” the best way to proceed with Brexit.

Trying to put a brave face on a devastating day, she insisted her Government was committed to leaving the single market and customs union, and that the free movement of people would also end.

But it was a testing few minutes for Mrs May, who was regularly jeered by Labour MPs while her ministers sat glumly around her.

Boris Johnson quit as Foreign Secretary on Monday afternoon. (File picture) (PA)

Critics said the latest Tory resignation ‘completely destroyed the Conservative position’, with bookmakers giving odds of just 6/4 that there would be a general election this year.

The stunning development saw one bookie slash odds of Johnson becoming next Conservative leader to just 3/1.

For a leadership contest to be triggered, 48 Tory MPs need to write to the chairman of the 1922 Committee expressing a lack of confidence in the current leader.

Any MP who wishes to run as candidate needs the support of two fellow MPs in order to get onto the ballot paper. If only one candidate is nominated, they automatically become the next leader.

If more than three candidates have been nominated, the one with the lowest proportion of votes is eliminated and another ballot is held. This process continues until two candidates remain.

Conservative Party members then vote for the two nominees, and the winner becomes the new leader.

Conservative leadership contest: How it works

Donald Tusk added to Theresa May’s woes when the European Council President said ‘the mess caused by Brexit is the biggest problem in the history of EU-UK relations‘.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stuck the knife in on the Prime Minister as she faced scorn from ministers on Monday during dramatic scenes in the Commons.

He said: ‘This is a mess entirely of the Prime Minister’s own making.

‘The team the Prime Minister appointed to secure this Brexit deal are jumping ship.’

Boris Johnson resigns: Cabinet departures.

David Davis was the first minister to quit, announcing his exit just before midnight on Sunday.

He was replaced as Brexit Secretary by Dominic Raab, a staunch Eurosceptic who’s previously clashed with the Prime Minister over equality issues.

Mr Johnson has been replaced by Jeremy Hunt, a Remainer who leaves his post as Health Secretary after six years. The health portfolio has been taken on by Matt Hancock.

Out: Brexit Secretary David Davis had also resigned his ministerial post on Sunday night. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Britain’s new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab leaves No.10 on Monday morning. (AP)

There had been growing speculation about Mr Johnson’s plans on Monday after he failed to attend a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee as well as a summit of Western Balkan nations being held in London.

At 3pm on Monday, a statement was issued by Downing Street to say: “This afternoon, the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The Prime Minister thanks Boris for his work.”

Mr Johnson had been due to attend the Western Balkans Summit in London’s Docklands this afternoon and to give a press conference at 5pm.

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable said: “He might have taken time to pluck up the courage to join his hard Brexiteer colleagues, but Boris Johnson’s resignation completely destroys the Conservative position.

‘Johnson had already described the proposals as ‘a turd’, and now they will surely be flushed away.’