Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and a raft of Cabinet members have now resigned, with each one citing concerns over the proposals for Northern Ireland in the draft withdrawal agreement with the EU.
Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has quit. She said that “as a unionist” she could not be party to any “risk” to “the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Ministers to the Prime Minister, has also announced her resignation. She described the “regulatory framework agreement for Northern Ireland” as a “real threat to the stability and integrity of the Union”.
Suella Braverman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has also quit. She too said the regulatory proposals for Northern Ireland were “threatening to break up our precious Union”.
Shailesh Vara, a minister in the Northern Ireland Office, was the first to announce his resignation from the Cabinet this morning.
Mr Vara said in his resignation letter that “the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must be respected.”
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab announced his resignation on Twitter, saying: “Today, I have resigned as Brexit Secretary. I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU. Here is my letter to the PM explaining my reasons, and my enduring respect for her.”
DUP MP Nigel Dodds, also writing on Twitter, said: “Thank you @EstherMcVey1 and others for standing up for the Union.”
Dominic Raab becomes the second Brexit secretary to stand down, following David Davis’ resignation from the role in June.
In the letter Mr Raab posted on Twitter, he wrote: “I regret to say that, following the Cabinet meeting yesterday on the Brexit deal, I must resign.
I understand why you have chosen to pursue the deal with the EU on the terms proposed, and I respect the different views held in good faith by all of our colleagues.
“For my part, I cannot support the proposed deal for two reasons. First, I believe the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland presents a very real trheat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“Second, I cannot support an indefinite backstop arrangement, where the EU holds a veto over our ability to exit. The terms of the backstop amount to a hybrid of the EU Customs Union and Single Market obligations.
No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally and without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement.”
“That arrangement is now also taken as the starting point for negotiating the Future Economic Partnership. If we accept that, it will severely prejudice the second phase of negotiations against the UK.”
He added: “Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last elections. This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust.”
The resignations came as European Council president Donald Tusk announced an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on November 25, at which the withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future relations will be finalised and formalised.