LONDON: Britain’s most senior official in charge of negotiating the country’s exit from the European Union resigned Sunday, two days after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she had finally united her quarrelsome government behind a plan for Brexit.
The Press Association news agency, the BBC and others said Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned Sunday.
Davis’s late-night resignation undermined May’s already fragile government. He was a strong pro-Brexit voice in a Cabinet divided between supporters of a clean break with the bloc and those who want to keep close ties with Britain’s biggest trading partner.
The staunchly pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Andrea Jenkyns tweeted: “Fantastic news. Well done David Davis for having the principal and guts to resign.”
Jenkyns said Steve Baker, a junior minister in the Brexit department, had also quit.
There was no immediate comment from either Baker or Davis.
Less than nine months remain until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019. The EU has warned Britain that time is running out to seal a divorce deal.
On Friday, Davis and the rest of May’s fractious Cabinet agreed on a plan for ties with the EU after the U.K. leaves next year.
On Monday, May is due to brief lawmakers on the plan hammered out during a 12-hour meeting at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat. It seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.
Some Brexit-supporting lawmakers are angry at the proposals, saying they will keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to change its rules to strike new trade deals around the world.
Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leader of the party’s “hard Brexit” faction, compared May’s plan to an egg so softly boiled that it “isn’t boiled at all.”
“A very soft Brexit means that we haven’t left, we are simply a rule-taker,” he said.
Davis’s resignation could embolden Brexit-supporting Conservative lawmakers to challenge May’s leadership. Some dream of replacing May with a staunch Brexiteer, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who in the past has disagreed publicly with his boss.
Johnson has not commented publicly since Friday. But some senior pro-Brexit ministers have backed May’s plan. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said Sunday that it did not contain everything he wanted but “I’m a realist.”
“All those of us who believe that we want to execute a proper Brexit, and one that is the best deal for Britain, have an opportunity now to get behind the prime minister in order to negotiate that deal,” he told the BBC.