British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a slew of resignation from her Cabinet on Thursday in protest of her Brexit deal, complicating her efforts to sell it to the House of Commons and the British public and possibly jeopardizing her hold on office.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab quit shortly before the prime minister’s statement to MPs, saying he could not support the withdrawal agreement struck with the European Union and approved by Cabinet Wednesday. He was followed by Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and then by Suella Braverman, a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the EU.
May defended her deal as being in the “national interest” and said that there was now a “clear choice” before MPs. “We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated. This deal,” she said.
The prime minister now faces a battle for her political survival as well as a fight to push through her deal. May’s leadership could be challenged if 48 of her own backbenchers put forward letters stating that they no longer have confidence in her. She would then face a leadership contest in which other candidates could challenge her.
If May cannot secure parliamentary backing for her deal, the chances of Britain leaving the EU without a deal would rise dramatically.
The British pound, which had strengthened on news of the deal and Cabinet support on Wednesday night, dropped again in the morning following Raab’s resignation, reflecting concerns about a “no deal” departure from the EU that could prove economically costly for the U.K.
May told MPs there was no plan for Brexit when she came to power and urged the House of Commons to back her draft agreement with Brussels “in the national interest.”
Raab, who is the second occupant of the office to resign this year, after David Davis’ departure in July, said he “cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”