LONDON: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit on Monday over Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the European Union, the second resignation in a day, leaving the British leader’s Brexit plans in crisis.
After a day when the eurosceptic foreign secretary cancelled meetings for crisis talks at his official residence in central London, Johnson decided to walk from his job just hours after May’s Brexit minister David Davis did the same.
The two resignations leave May badly exposed at the top of a government unable to unite over Britain’s biggest foreign and trading policy shift in almost half a century.
It also puts a question mark over whether the leader will try to weather the resignations and stand firm in her commitment to pursuing a “business-friendly” Brexit, or will be faced with more challenges to her authority and calls to quit herself.
The pound fell from around $1.3340 to trade as low as $1.3259, down 0.2 per cent the day, after Johnson’s resignation was announced.
“This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary,” May’s spokesperson said in a statement. “His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”
The departures raise the stakes for May, who believed that she had secured a hard-won agreement with her deeply divided cabinet of ministers on Friday to keep the closest possible trading ties with the EU.
But it soon began to unravel, when Davis resigned late on Sunday and launched a no-holds-barred attack on her plan, calling it “dangerous” and one which would give “too much away, too easily” to EU negotiators, who would simply ask for more.
With Johnson’s resignation, a noisy rebellion among the ranks could gather steam. Many Brexit campaigners in her Conservative Party say she has betrayed her promise to pursue a clean break with the EU.
She now faces a decision whether to change her proposal or stick by it and hope that she can face down the dissenters.
With less than nine months before Britain leaves and just over three before the EU says it wants a deal, May has been forced to show her cards that she will commit the country to pursue the closest possible trading ties with the EU.