Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

UK's top Brexit minister quits govt, cites policy differences with PM May

UK's top Brexit minister quits govt, cites policy differences with PM May

Mr Raab campaigned for Vote Leave ahead of the referendum.

Mrs May's latest plan would see Britain maintain its close ties with the European Union through the creation of a new free trade area for goods ruled by a "common rulebook".

Davis opposed the PM's plan approved at her country residence, Chequers, on Friday.

As the new secretary of state for exiting the European Union, Raab will now be in charge of leading negotiations for Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

But much of the day-to-day negotiation falls to May's office.

The former Brexit Secretary added that the "current trend of policy and tactics" was making it look "less and less likely" that Brexit would deliver on the referendum result and the Tory commitments to leave the European Union customs and single markets.

In this Thursday, May 17, 2018 file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev, not pictured, following their meeting at the government building in Skopje, Macedonia.

"A very soft Brexit means that we haven't left, we are simply a rule-taker", he said. "That has been their practice throughout the past year and I fear, in fact, if anything, this is just the start".

In a move that unnerved Conservative Party eurosceptics, Steve Baker, a minister who worked for Davis, also quit, saying in his letter to May: "I can not support this policy with the sincerity and resolve which will be necessary".

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"It seems to me we are giving too much away, too easily, and that is a unsafe strategy at this time", he told BBC radio.

In a letter responding to Davis' resignation, May said she was "sorry" he had chosen to resign and argued her proposal was "consistent with the mandate of the referendum".

In a letter to May, Davis said he was not willing to be "a reluctant conscript" to her negotiating stance.

For many Brexit campaigners, Baker's government role gave them faith in the process.

"And I think without David Davis there, without his imprimatur, it will be very hard for them to get the support of Conservative MPs and therefore the prime minister would be well advised to reconsider them". It seeks to keep the United Kingdom and the European Union in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.

If May rides out this crisis - as she has many others - she will face another showdown later this year when she brings the Brexit deal she negotiates with Brussels back to Parliament for approval. Michael Gove, May's environment minister, said on Sunday that while the agreed negotiating stance was not flawless, he believed it delivered on handing back control to Britain.

Other Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs have criticized the Chequers deal, saying May's plans offered Brexit in name only.

The resignation of Davis on Sunday evening has dealt a major blow to May, who has struggled to unite factions within her ruling Conservative Party.

Her proposal sparked the fury of hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party but Mr Davis signalled Brussels itself could still reject it. "If the Brexit Secretary can not support them they can not be very good proposals".

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