Theresa May is edging closer to a Brexit deal ahead of next week’s crunch summit in Brussels – but Westminster is awash with speculation that some Cabinet ministers may quit in protest at her plan.
The EU wants Northern Ireland effectively to remain in the single market and the customs union to avoid the need for customs checks until a final free trade deal is agreed.
May insists such an arrangement must apply to the whole of the UK, to avoid the creation of a border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
But Tory Brexiteers fear she is about to concede to EU demands that it be open-ended – despite previous assurances it would be time-limited.
The Cabinet meets on Tuesday and will be asked to approve May’s new plan. Here are the ministers seen as most likely to walk out rather than agree – ranked by likelihood of resignation.
Andrea Leadsom 8/10
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, is seen as most likely to quit. The former Tory leadership candidate was one of the main faces of the Leave campaign. And the BBC reported last night she has “serious concerns” about the prime minister’s plan.
Michael Gove 5/10
Michael Gove stayed inside the tent after the Chequers plan was agreed. But he has argued it could be undone in future. If he decides May’s new proposal goes too far and quits, the prime minister would be in real trouble.
Chris Grayling 2/10
Chris Grayling ran Theresa May’s Conservative Party leadership campaign. The transport secretary would probably remain loyal.
Penny Mordaunt 7/10
Penny Mordaunt is near the top of the list of potential resignations. The development secretary, who is seen as a future leadership contender, pointedly refused to endorse Chequers when repeatedly asked by journalists this week.
Esther McVey 6/10
Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, is definitely a resignation risk. Asked yesterday whether she backed May’s Brexit plan, she replied simply: “I am completely supportive of the prime minister, as she well knows. What I won’t do is give speculation into what is going forward.”
Dominic Raab 4/10
If Dominic Raab were to resign there would be a real crisis. Losing one Brexit secretary is bad, losing a second would be a disaster. Raab has been public about the need for a time limit on any customs union membership. “It’s absolutely crucial that any backstop has finality to it,” he told the Conservative Party conference just last week.
Liam Fox 7/10
As International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox’s job is to strike trade deals beyond the EU after Brexit. And the Daily Mail reports this morning that he believes May’s new plan “would make life difficult for me”.