British ministers quit over draft Brexit agreement

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London, Nov 15 (IANS) Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and another senior UK minister resigned on Thursday, just hours after Prime Minister Theresa May secured her Cabinet’s backing on a draft EU withdrawal deal following lengthy and tense meetings with her government.

Raab, who only took office in July when his predecessor David Davis quit due to his conflicting views with May, said that he “cannot in good conscience support” the UK’s draft Brexit agreement with the EU, the BBC reported.

His resignation, just as the Brexit negotiations appeared to be entering their twilight stages, came as a huge blow to May amid growing calls among hardline Tories for a vote of no confidence against their leader.

May was set to speak in the Parliament later in the day to sell the new “divorce deal”.

“I regret to say that following the Cabinet meeting yesterday on the Brexit deal, I must resign,” the Conservative Party politician said in his resignation letter to May.

Raab said he could not back the proposed measures of keeping Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with the EU as a way to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland and nor could he support an indefinite backstop arrangement, whereby the UK would remain in a customs union until a future deal with the bloc is fully thrashed out.

“Above all, I cannot reconcile with the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” he said.

Pound sterling dropped one per cent against the euro and the dollar upon Raab’s announcement.

Following Raab’s move, British Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey announced his resignation and said the withdrawal deal “did not honour the result of the referendum”.

“This is a matter of trust,” she said in her resignation letter. “It is about the future of our country and the integrity of our democracy.”

Earlier in the day, Shailesh Vara, Minister of Northern Ireland state, also quit over the deal. Vara, who backed to remain in EU in the 2016 referendum, said he feared the UK would stay in limbo for years while a permanent deal with the EU was negotiated.

UK Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “botched deal”.

“After two years of bungled negotiations, from what we know of the government’s deal, it’s a failure in its own terms.” It seems highly unlikely that his party would support May’s deal when it comes to a vote.

On Wednesday, May after a five-hour Cabinet meeting on the draft deal, cleared the first hurdle when the ministers finally approved the draft terms of her EU withdrawal agreement, which needs to be ratified by the British Parliament and the remaining 27 EU countries.

At present, she is facing a battle to get it through Parliament as Brexiteer Conservative member of the Parliament — as well as some Remainers — condemned the plan, accusing her of breaking promises and handing control back to Brussels.

“The draft agreement is the best that could be negotiated,” May said after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. “The deal enables us to take back control.”



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