The man responsible for overseeing the UK’s exit from the European Union negotiations has resigned, citing irreconcilable differences with Prime Minister Theresa May.
In a resignation letter sent to May late Sunday night UK time, Brexit Minister David Davis said it was looking “less and less likely” that the Conservative-led government would be able to deliver on its “manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.”
Davis’ resignation comes days after May and her government on Friday agreed on a “business friendly” plan for Brexit.
The proposal, which was announced at the end of a crucial summit, seeks to preserve frictionless goods trade for the European Union, and avoid border checks and tariffs, most feared by manufacturing companies. May, in a statement, said she would soon present the proposal to the European Union.
In a response to Davis, May said she was sorry he had chosen to leave the government “when we have already made so much progress towards delivering a smooth and successful Brexit.”
On Friday, “we as the Cabinet agreed a comprehensive and detailed proposal which provides a precise, responsible, and credible basis for progressing our negotiations towards a new relationship between the UK and the EU after we leave in March.”
The June 2016 vote to leave the European Union effectively ended a relationship which had endured for 44 years. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty outlines the voluntary departure, which will take effect in March 2019.
‘Government in chaos’
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Davis’ resignation “at such a crucial time” shows that May “has no authority left and is incapable of delivering Brexit.”
“With her government in chaos, if she clings on, it’s clear she’s more interested in hanging on for her own sake than serving the people of our country,” the Labour Party leader said on Twitter.
In a September 2017 op-ed for CNN, Davis wrote: “Brexit is not about Britain stepping back from the world, but jumping into the new opportunities it presents.”
“Outside of the EU, Britain will be nimbler, more open to innovation and technological change, at the same time as driving up global standards,” he wrote. “Using our might as the world’s fifth largest economy — we can become a true champion of free trade.”
One of many Euroskeptics in May’s Cabinet, Davis was a high profile supporter of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, putting him at odds with the Prime Minister, who supported remaining within the EU.
During his time as Brexit secretary, he clashed with May repeatedly, and his resignation risks widening divisions within the Conservative Party over Europe, with all eyes on whether anyone will be nominated to replace him, or if fellow Leave campaigner and May critic Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will follow him out of the door.
Davis’ deputy, Steve Baker, and another Brexit minister, Suella Braverman, also resigned Sunday, according to the UK’s Press Association.