Two hardline Brexit cabinet members resign

9 Jul 18

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson have resigned from the government in protest of Prime Minister Theresa May’s softer Brexit plan that would keep the United Kingdom in the European Union customs union and single market.

The resignations pose a threat to May’s already fragile government and could lead to a no-confidence vote to oust her from power. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that May’s government “has no authority left and is incapable of delivering Brexit.” Those who oppose the U.K. leaving the EU have renewed calls for a second Brexit referendum.

On Friday, May met with her cabinet to agree on a Brexit plan that would create a free-trade zone between the U.K. and EU for goods and require the U.K. to follow EU regulations related to goods and agricultural products, but not services. The U.K. would also allow the EU Court of Justice to retain jurisdiction over some issues. There is no indication that the EU would accept the proposal, especially if the U.K. seeks free movement of goods while restricting the free movement of people.

By Sunday, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned, saying that he did not support the plan and that May had given away “too much too easily” in Brexit negotiations. He was replaced Monday by former housing minister Dominic Raab. On Monday morning, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson followed suit and resigned in a letter arguing that the proposal would not allow the U.K. to make its own laws, but would relegate the U.K. to the “status of a colony.” The Brexit “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt,” the letter says. Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary, was named to replace Johnson.

BAL Analysis: May’s proposal indicates that the government is leaning toward a softer break from the EU, but the loss of support of “hard Brexit” cabinet members who want a clean break from the EU could make it more difficult for the proposal to gain the support of pro-Brexit members of parliament. In the immediate term, the resignations could topple May’s government, which is held together with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. A no-confidence motion requires 48 Tory signatures to trigger a vote in the House of Commons. May said she will contest such a motion.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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