Prime Minister Theresa May struggled yesterday to keep her government from imploding after the resignation of Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, a prominent face of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, and David Davis, her once loyal “Brexit minister” in charge of negotiating the country’s break.
The surprise departure exposed May to challenge by restive Conservative Party members outraged over what they see as the prime minister’s plan for a “soft Brexit” that keeps Britain tied to many EU rules and regulations after it leaves the bloc next year.
Hard-line Brexit backers, who want May to seek a clean, decisive break from Brussels, were in open revolt over her recently revealed proposals. They denounced the latest road map as a timid capitulation: “Brexit in name only” that ignores the 52 per cent of voters who opted in June 2016 to leave the European bloc.May replaced Davis yesterday morning with 44-year-old Dominic Raab, a leading pro-Brexit campaigner during the EU referendum who served as her housing minister.The European reaction was muted on Monday morning.
“Politicians come and go, but the problems they have created for their people remain,” European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday of Davis’ exit, just before being informed of Johnson’s resignation. He said the same sentiment extended to Johnson as well.
The pound sterling held steady and markets did not drop. Meanwhile, President Trump is scheduled to arrive Thursday for a visit that will be closely watched for any comments on Brexit and U.S. relations with the EU.In his letter of resignation late Sunday, Davis told May that her tactics and proposals make it “look less and less likely” that Britain would leave Europe’s single market and customs unions, two promises May has made.
Davis warned May her approach will just lead to further demands from Brussels and will give Europe control of large swaths of the British economy.Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Davis said he had to resign because as Brexit secretary he did not support May’s strategy and so could not do his job.For two years, chief negotiator Davis has been the white-haired, ruddy-cheeked face of Brexit.
But talks in Brussels were notoriously slow, mostly because May’s government could not agree on what kind of future relationship Britain wants with Europe on trade, immigration, law, tariffs and border checks and security.
Recently it was revealed that Davis had only attended four hours of talks in Brussels in 2018, going as long as three months without meeting the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.The prime minister’s plan for a soft Brexit was pushed forward by May at a crunch cabinet meeting at her countryside manor, called Chequers, on Friday.