LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to fight for her draft divorce deal with the European Union on Thursday after the resignation of her Brexit secretary and other ministers put her strategy and her job in peril.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference at Downing Street in London, Britain November 15, 2018. Ian Vogler/Pool via Reuters
Just over 12 hours after May announced that her cabinet had agreed to the terms of the deal, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey resigned.
Eurosceptics in May’s Conservative Party said they had submitted letters calling for a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
“Am I going to see this through? Yes,” May told reporters at her Downing Street office.
Two junior ministers, two ministerial aides and the Conservatives’ vice chairman also quit. Hostility to the deal from government and opposition lawmakers raised the risk that the deal would be rejected and Britain would leave the EU on March 29 without a safety net.
May said she was sorry at the resignations and understood their unhappiness, but believed her deal was the right one.
“I believe with every fiber of my being that the course I have set out is the right one for our country and all our people,” she said.
“I am going to my job of getting the best deal for Britain and I’m going to my job of getting a deal that is in the national interest.”
By seeking to preserve the closest possible ties with the EU, May has upset her party’s many advocates of a clean break, and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.
Meanwhile, proponents of closer relations with the EU in her own party and the Labour opposition say the deal squanders the advantages of membership for little gain.
Both sides say it effectively cedes power to the EU without securing the promised benefits of greater autonomy.
“It is … mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons. The stark reality is that it was dead on arrival,” said Conservative Brexit-supporting lawmaker Mark Francois.
May will need the backing of about 320 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament to pass the deal.
The ultimate outcome remains uncertain. Scenarios include May’s deal ultimately winning approval; May losing her job; Britain leaving the bloc with no agreement; or even another referendum.
Additional reporting by Sarah Young, Kate Holton, Costas Pitas, David Milliken, Andrew MacAskill, Andy Bruce and Alistair Smout; Writing by Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge