The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May has been plunged into turmoil with the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers in a deep split over her Brexit strategy.
The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, quit on Monday, hours after the resignation late on Sunday night of the minister in charge of Brexit negotiations, David Davis.
Their decision to leave the government came three days after May appeared to have agreed a deal with her fractured Cabinet on the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU. That plan is now in tatters and her political future appears uncertain.
May appeared in Parliament on Monday afternoon to defend her plan, minutes after Downing Street confirmed the departure of Johnson. May acknowledged the splits in her statement to MPs, saying of the ministers who quit: “We do not agree about the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honoring the result of the referendum.”
The Prime Minister’s latest political drama began late on Sunday night when Davis quit, declaring he could not support May’s Brexit plan. He said it involved too close a relationship with the EU and gave only an illusion of control being returned to the UK after it left the EU.
“It seems to me we’re giving too much away, too easily, and that’s a dangerous strategy at this time,” Davis said in a BBC radio interview Monday morning.
Johnson’s resignation came Monday afternoon local time, just before the Prime Minister was due to make a scheduled statement in Parliament. “This afternoon, the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary,” a statement from Downing Street said. “His replacement will be announced shortly. The Prime Minister thanks Boris for his work.”
The value of the British pound dropped on international markets after Johnson’s announcement, having risen after the announcement Friday that a Cabinet deal on Brexit had been agreed.
The decision by Johnson, a former mayor of London, to back Brexit, was seen as crucial when the issue was taken to a referendum two years ago. He became a leading figure in the “Leave” campaign, cutting a charismatic figure as he painted a rosy picture of Britain’s future outside the European Union.
But as Foreign Secretary in May’s government, he was prone to gaffes and criticized for not being on top of his brief.
Opposition politicians were quick to capitalize on May’s troubles. “This mess is all of the Prime Ministers own making,” opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told lawmakers.
“Two secretaries of state have resigned and still we are no clearer as to what our future relationship with our nearest neighbors and biggest trading partners will be.”
She also confirmed that she would present a White Paper Thursday on how the final UK government negotiating position.