Dominic Raab has sensationally quit as Brexit Secretary, in a massive blow to Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
Mr Raab, who only took over in the summer after David Davis resigned in protest over the Prime Minister’s withdrawal strategy, said he “cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU”.
His surprise departure on Thursday came amid a furious backlash from Brexit-backing Tories to the deal agreed by UK and EU negotiators four months ahead of the UK’s scheduled withdrawal on March 29.
Hours earlier Shailesh Vara had quit as minister of state for Northern Ireland, saying Mrs May’s agreement, “leaves the UK in a halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation”.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Raab said the deal represented a “very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” because of provisions for Northern Ireland.
He also said he could not accept “an indefinite backstop arrangement” for the Irish border.
He said: “No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement.”
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 election.
“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.
Westminster is braced for further resignations, amid widespread expectations that the Prime Minister may face a challenge to her position from Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence in her leadership.