Theresa May has been hit by more resignations as Tory MPs continue to protest against her Brexit plans.
Mansfield MP Ben Bradley and Lewes MP Maria Caulfield have both resigned as Vice-Chairs of the Conservative Party in opposition to the policy agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers last Friday.
Their resignations came just hours after Tory MP Andrew Bridgen went public with his call for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, believing her plan does not live up to her promise that “Brexit means Brexit”.
May was forced to reshuffle her top team on Monday after Boris Johnson quit as Foreign Secretary, David Davis resigned as Brexit Secretary and Steve Baker walked out as a junior Brexit Minister.
The PM announced on Friday evening the UK would seek a “common rulebook” with the EU when it comes to goods and agriculture products, thereby continuing current standards in a bid to avoid delays at ports and airports.
The UK Parliament would ‘take back control’ by having the power to align UK goods rules with Brussels - or to diverge from them in the future, although this would have implications for the trade deal as a whole.
In his resignation letter Bradley, who voted Remain in the EU referendum, said: “I cannot with any sincerity defend this course to my electorate, 71% of whom vote to leave the European Union.”
Despite his resignation, Bradley did not call on May to quit as Prime Minister, adding: “I hope that under your continued leadership we can make the necessary changes to these proposals and fulfil the promise we made to the electorate.”
Speaking on Sky News after resigning, Bradley denied he was part of a plot to oust the Prime Minister.
“Absolutely not,” he said, adding: “I am not trying to undermine the Prime Minister.”
In her resignation letter, Caulfield said: “Since the announcement on Friday my constituents, whether they supported leave or remain, have contacted me in large numbers to say they do not support the deal and it would therefore be more appropriate to have a Vice Chairman who can confidently defend the proposal.”
In WhatsApp messages leaked to the Guido Fawkes blog, Caulfield complained that Brexiteers were being “turned into the enemy”, despite having “never once voted against the Government”.
It seemed May had stemmed a tide of resignations from her team after a well-received appearance at a meeting of Tory MPs in Westminster on Monday.
But today’s events show there is still more work to be done to unify the Tories around a single Brexit policy.
It is also being reported that Davis’s former chief advisor, Stewart Jackson, is being blocked by Downing Street from continuing the role under new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
Jackson’s wife tweeted:
Bradley, elected as an MP last year, was seen as one of the rising stars of the Tories, and in January was appointed Vice Chair for Youth as the party sought to reengage with younger voters after the disastrous 2017 General Election.
He courted controversy in his role, with historic blog posts coming to light in which he suggested unemployed people should have vasectomies.
He hit the headlines again when he admitted making a defamatory claim that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had “sold British secrets to communist spies”.
Caulfield, elected in 2015, was appointed Vice Chair for Women in January, and hit the headlines with her passionate defence of the Tories plan to limit the availability of free school meals.
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