David Davis has called Theresa May’s Brexit policy a “dangerous strategy” and revealed himself as the “odd man out” at the Cabinet summit at Chequers on Friday.
The outgoing Brexit Secretary quit on Sunday night and said he hopes his resignation will stop the Prime Minister “making any more concessions” to the EU.
His resignation, quickly followed by that of fellow Department for Exiting the EU minister Steve Baker, and suggestions another, Suella Braverman, has followed, fill force May to reshuffle her government just as she was to attempt to win the support of backbenchers for her soft Brexit plan.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Davis said he believed the UK is “giving too much away, too easily” in exit talks, and that he could not be “front and centre” of delivering the policy.
But when asked if the Prime Minister should stay in post, he said: “Oh yes, of course.”
He admitted he had “lost the argument” with Cabinet colleagues, who were “two or three to one” in favour of May’s plan at Chequers, adding: “In my view, this policy has got a number of weaknesses.”
The plan agreed at Chequers riled Leavers as it includes the UK accepting a “common rule book” with the EU and British courts “paying regard” to rulings of the European Court of Justice.
Defenders of the policy have said, however, that the UK would still have the freedom to diverge.
David told the BBC: “It seems to me we are giving too much away too easily and that’s a dangerous strategy at this time.
“Hopefully we will resist very strongly any attempt to get any further concessions from us on this, because I think this further than we should have gone already.”
He went on: “I would be front and centre in delivering this policy, explaining it to the House, persuading the House it is right, and then going out and delivering it with the EU.
“Frankly, just as it was known what the policy was, it was also known I had concerns about it.
“It would not have been a plausible thing to do and I wouldn’t have done a good job at it.”
Davis said other Cabinet members had asked for changes to be made to the Brexit policy on Friday, but none had been made.
He would not be drawn on calling for others, such as arch Brexiteer Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to follow in his footsteps.
He said: “When we debated this at Cabinet on Friday my opening remark to Theresa was ‘Prime Minister, as you know I’m going to be the odd-man-out in this’. She knew this because I had written to her earlier in the week.
“Cabinet collective responsibility applied so I didn’t say anything thereafter. That was because I was thinking about the consequences.
“I took the view at the time this was not the best strategy, that there were better strategies available - we have been establishing them.
“I thought it would be a risk at least of delivering a poor outcome. I was very clear on Friday and I took two days to think through some, for me, very important decisions.”
May replied to Davis’ resignation letter saying she does not agree with his “characterisation of the policy”.
It comes amid speculation that other Brexiteer ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, could be ready to resign.
Several pro-Leave backbenchers, including Jacob Rees Mogg, have said they would be prepared to vote down the deal.
Others are rumoured to be prepared to write to the powerful 1922 Committee to demand a leadership challenge.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also gave an interview to the BBC this morning. He said Davis was an “outstanding” colleague with “integrity”.
He told Today: “I think all of us feel a sense of great loss this morning because David Davis was an outstanding colleague.
“When we deliver a successful Brexit, which I believe we will, history will judge him to have been one of the key architects.”
He added: “He is a very thoughtful man with real integrity.”
Asked about comments made by Boris Johnson that the Brexit policy that sparked Davis to quit was a “turd”, Hunt said the Foreign Secretary had also called for the plan to be championed.
“It is possible sometimes for politicians to say two things that appear mildly contradictory and of all people Boris does sometimes do that,” he added.
Hunt said there was a mechanism for triggering a leadership challenge, but added: “I don’t believe that will happen”.
He said: “Personally, I hope that doesn’t happen because right now we are in an extremely delicate and difficult situation for our country and I think the only sensible thing is to recognise that in these kinds of situations, difficult choices have to be made.
“The one thing that will damage our country the most is if we don’t get behind our Prime Minister.”