Why have David Davis and Boris Johnson resigned?
Dual blow leaves Theresa May 'hanging by a thread'
Boris Johnson has resigned as Foreign Secretary, hours after Brexit minister David Davis also quit his post, over his dissatisfaction with the ‘soft Brexit’ plan agreed at Theresa May’s Chequers summit on Friday.
“Johnson had been due to take part in a Cobra meeting following the death of Dawn Sturgess from Novichok poisoning, but he did not turn up,” Politics Home reports.
In a break with usual tradition, Downing Street announced the Foreign Secretary’s departure before Johnson could do so himself - a sign, says ITV’s Robert Peston, that the civil war between May and her Brexiteer rebels is becoming “brutal”.
Why did Davis and Johnson resign?
Both Cabinet members handed in their notice in protest over May’s plans to seek a ‘soft Brexit’ in talks with the EU. Brexiteers say this approach gives away too many concessions to Brussels and represents a betrayal of the EU referendum vote.
Despite a veneer of Cabinet solidarity around May’s plan when it was announced in Friday evening, in private “Johnson had referred to attempts to sell the prime minister’s Brexit plan as ‘polishing a turd’”, The Guardian reports.
Davis’ resignation letter, while less blunt, raised similar objection. In it, the departing Brexit minister told May that he would not be a “reluctant conscript” to a plan which he said was “certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense”.
He also argued that May’s plan would leave Britain vulnerable, saying: “The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one.”
The BBC says that Davis’s “unhappiness in government has been no secret for some time”, and that Davis “found his position untenable” following the policy agreement made on Friday.
What will happen next?
Johnson’s resignation deals a second body blow to Theresa May’s premiership and throws the future of the government into disarray.
With the balance of her Cabinet now upset by the absence of two major Leave figures, May’s position is now “hanging by a thread”, says Sky News’ Lewis Goodall.
Some commentators were already predicting that Davis’ resignation would trigger a general election - with Johnson also handing in his notice, many now see a return to the polls as inevitable.
Who would win another general election, four years ahead of schedule and only 13 months after the snap election which narrowly returned a bruised Conservative party to power, is anyone’s guess.
On one hand, recent YouGov voter intention polls have indicated that, despite recent turbulence, voters still give the Conservatives a narrow lead over Labour.
On the other hand, the most recent poll was carried out last week, before the Chequers summit which triggered the tumultuous events of the past 24 hours.
With a multitude of possibilities on the table - a hardline Brexiteer government takeover, a general election which could unseat the Conservatives altogether - it is too early to predict what impact today’s events will have on Brexit. However, Brussels is clearly following the unfolding saga, including President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
“I can only regret that the idea of Brexit has not left with Davis and Johnson,” he tweeted. “But...who knows?”.