Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has quit the cabinet, Downing Street has confirmed, in a fresh and potentially devastating blow to the UK Prime Minister.
The resignation comes after Brexit Secretary David Davis, alongside his junior minister Steve Baker, left the government over the PM’s new Brexit policy in a shock move on Sunday night.
In his letter to Theresa May, Johnson said that the “dream is dying” as Britain appeared to be “heading for a semi-Brexit” and would take on “the status of a colony” under new plans agreed by ministers at Chequers on Friday.
“What is even more disturbing is that this is our opening bid,” he said, adding: “It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flag fluttering above them.”
A spokesman for May said Theresa May had accepted Johnson’s resignation and that she would contest any vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Later, in the Commons, May paid tribute to both ministers but went on to defend her new Brexit strategy as “in our national interest”.
“It is the right Brexit deal for Britain,” May insisted.
The second resignation, which saw the value of the pound drop sharply, intensifies pressure on May as Brexiteer anger grows over the policy she agreed with ministers at Chequers, her country residence, on Friday.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laid into the PM after her statement to MPs.
There was a “crisis in Government”, he said, adding: “It is clear this Government is not capable of securing a deal to protect the economy, jobs and living standards.
“It is clear this Government cannot secure a good deal for Britain.”
Following the raft of resignations, No. 10 announced Kat Malthouse, a work and pensions minister, would replace Dominic Raab as the new housing minister, who replaced David Davis as Brexit Secretary.
And Chris Heaton-Harris would become a junior minister at the Brexit department, replacing Steve Baker, who also resigned late on Sunday.
It is also potentially devastating for the British government’s plans for leaving the European Union, with European Council President Donald Tusk reportedly saying the “mess caused by Brexit is the biggest problem in the history of EU-UK relations”.
He later tweeted: “Politicians come and go but the problems they have created for people remain. I can only regret that the idea of #Brexit has not left with Davis and Johnson. But...who knows?”
Johnson, the most high-profile Brexit-backer, had fallen silent after allegedly comparing May’s proposed deal to “polishing a turd”, before re-emerging to quit on Monday afternoon.
May had attempted to quickly re-establish her authority by appointing rising star Dominic Raab as Davis’ successor early on Monday morning.
But the walk-out by the former Vote Leave talisman just hours later threatens to open the floodgates on a backbench Tory Brexiteer rebellion.
A number of Tories, including the influential Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrea Jenkyns, had already said they were prepared to write to the powerful 1922 Committee to call for a leadership contest.
Back in the Commons, May some Labour MPs shouted “resign” while others waved “bye” as the PM took to the despatch box.
John Longworth, the chairman of Leave Means Leave, told Sky News: “I’m absolutely delighted that Boris has decided to show principle and resign.
“David Davis led the way, he is the Brexit Secretary, and I think that says everything you need to know about this Brexit deal that the Prime Minister has put forward.”
Davis, meanwhile, denied coordinating his resignation with Johnson, telling LBC radio he told a number of ministers of his plans “just to keep them informed”.
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.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted her support for May ahead of a Commons statement by the PM on Monday afternoon.
Senior Leave-backing Tory MP John Whittingdale praised his two colleagues’ exit.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the move exposed “chaos at the heart of government”.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage warmly welcomed the news and called for Environment Secretary Michael Gove to follow suit.