Kristian Rouz — A junior UK cabinet member has resigned after the government of Prime Minister Theresa May decided to support her proposed deal to exit the EU. The official cited his lack of support for the proposed agreement, saying the UK "deserves better than this".
Minister of State for Northern Ireland Shailesh Vara, a Conservative MP from North West Cambridgeshire, has stepped down from his position in the May cabinet Thursday. In a statement explaining his resignation, Vara said the UK could continue negotiations with the EU to get a better accord.
Vara said the proposed Brexit deal "leaves the UK in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign state."
With much sadness and regret I have submitted my letter of resignation as a Northern Ireland Minister to the Prime Minister. A copy of my letter is attached.— Shailesh Vara MP (@ShaileshVara) 15 ноября 2018 г.
It has been a joy and privilege to serve in the Northern Ireland Office and I will always cherish the fondest memories. pic.twitter.com/SN8j4OwhYD
His resignation comes just ahead of discussions of the proposed accord in Parliament, where PM May is facing a tough opposition from the Labour, LibDem, and some Tory MPs.
Vara's resignation follows President of the European Council Donald Tusk's announcement that an EU summit to finalise the terms of Britain's departure would take place on 25 November. The announcement means PM May will have roughly a week to sell the proposed agreement to the Commons, which might be a hard task to achieve.
"We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart," Vara said in his statement.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a coalition partner of the Tories in May's Conservative and Unionist cabinet, also expressed its opposition to the proposed Brexit accord. DUP MP Jim Shannon told BBC Radio Ulster he would vote against the agreement proposed by May.
"We certainly will (vote against it)… We feel very much betrayed," Shannon stressed.
This comes as the DUP has repeatedly warned it wouldn't accept any Brexit proposal that would jeopardise Northern Ireland's status as inalienable part of the UK. The so-called ‘Irish backstop' issue has been bothering DUP MPs, who have feared May could agree to EU demands to restrict the movement between Ulster and Great Britain in order to keep the Irish border open.
Some observers have suggested Vara's resignation has added to the political chaos surrounding the Brexit process. Reports earlier this week alleged at least four pro-Remain members of the May cabinet could resign due to their opposition to the divorce deal.
Additionally, May has already drawn battle lines over the upcoming discussions in parliament — which, some say, could further undermine the support for her government among the member of her own party.
"The choice before us is clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings us back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all," PM May said in a statement Wednesday.
Hardline Brexiteers have also repeated their accusations against PM May, saying her proposal amounts to a ‘betrayal' of Brexit, and leaves the UK at the mercy of Brussels officials.
"The case that I have made is that I disagree with the policy but not the individual," Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory MP and chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said. "There comes a point at which the policy and the individual are so inextricably linked that that argument ceases to have any validity."
For his part, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters he hopes no more cabinet members will step down over the proposed deal. Nonetheless, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey is reportedly considering a resignation of her own — after she was ‘shouted down' when trying to file a formal objection to the deal proposal during cabinet discussions.
The Parliament is expected to discuss the deal over the coming days, and political analysts say the outcome of the vote in Commons is hardly predictable.