Boris Johnson has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, saying the “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”.
In his letter resigning as foreign secretary he claimed the prime minister was leading the UK into a “semi-Brexit” with the “status of a colony”.
His resignation came hours after Brexit Secretary David Davis quit the cabinet.
Mrs May insists her plans are the “the best way to honour” the Brexit vote, amid a deepening political crisis.
- Live updates: May statement as Brexit crisis grows
- Kuenssberg: Davis lifts lid on tensions
- Raab replaces Davis as Brexit secretary
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Johnson’s exit had turned an “embarrassing and difficult situation for the PM into potentially a full-blown crisis”, fuelling speculation about a leadership challenge.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said she would fight any attempt to oust her if the required 48 Tory MPs called for a contest.
What Johnson says in his resignation letter
Mr Johnson does not pull any punches, telling Theresa May Brexit “should be about opportunity and hope” and a “chance to do things differently”, but “that dream is dying, suffocated by needless self doubt”.
He claims crucial decisions have been postponed, including preparations for a “no deal” scenario, “with the result that we appear to be heading for a semi-Brexit, with large parts of the economy still locked in the EU system, but with no UK control over that system”.
“It now seems that the opening bid of our negotiations involves accepting that we are not actually going to be able to make our own laws,” he says.
“In that respect we are truly headed for the status of colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement.”
He said he had congratulated the PM on Friday on getting the cabinet to sign up to her proposals at their Chequers away day, admitting that there were too few ministers on his side of the argument to get their way.
The government now had a “song to sing” on Brexit, he added: “The trouble is that I have practised the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat”.
What prompted the row?
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree how trade will work between the UK and the EU afterwards.
There have been differences within the Conservatives over how far the UK should prioritise the economy by compromising on issues such as leaving the remit of the European Court of Justice and ending free movement of people.
Theresa May only has a majority in Parliament with the support of the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, so any split raises questions about whether her plan could survive a Commons vote.
She took her entire cabinet to her country residence on Friday to try and get agreement on a UK vision for post-Brexit relations.
An agreement was announced after the 12 hour meeting, but many Brexiteers have been unhappy with the deal which they think will lead to the “worst of both worlds”.
Why did David Davis resign?
The man leading the UK’s negotiating team, David Davis, resigned late on Sunday night, saying that he did not agree with the UK’s proposals, so was the wrong person to be going into negotiations with them.
He told the BBC that he thought the UK was giving away “too much, too easily” and predicted that the European Union would be demanding more concessions in talks.
Mr Davis, who has been Brexit Secretary since Mrs May became prime minister in 2016, said he had made compromises since taking on the role, but this was “one compromise too far”.
Theresa May is sticking by her Brexit plan
Speaking in a boisterous House of Commons, Mrs May defended the Brexit plan agreed on Friday.
She paid tribute to Mr Johnson’s “passion” in championing a global Britain after Brexit and Mr Davis’ work in steering through key Brexit legislation.
But she told MPs: “We do not agree on the best way to deliver our shared commitments to honour the result of the referendum.”
Mrs May told MPs that the plan agreed by the cabinet at Chequers was the basis of a “responsible and credible” offer to restart renegotiations with the EU.
She said she had listened to “every possible version” of Brexit over the past two years and what she was proposing was the “right Brexit” that would respect the referendum commitments on money, borders and laws but also protect the economy and ensure a “smooth” departure.
But she warned that if the EU did not engage with her plan, there was a “serious risk” of the UK leaving in March 2019 without a deal in a “disorderly” manner.
What was the reaction in the Commons?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Johnson and Mr Davis had abandoned a “sinking ship”, shattering the the “illusion of unity” initially surrounding the Chequers plan.
“The Chequers compromise took two years to reach and two days to unravel,” he said. “We have a crisis in government… it is clear this government cannot secure a good deal for Britain.”
Mrs May came under pressure from prominent Tory Brexiteers on the backbenches, with ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith urging her to rule out further concessions during the talks.
And John Redwood said she must clear up “ambiguities and contradictions in the Chequers statement that implies we would give the European Court of Justice powers, we might pay money to trade, we might accept their laws and have their migration policies”.
But former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the ex-mayor of London had the chance to “save Brexit” by moving against the prime minister.
What has been the reaction from the EU?
The European Commission declined to comment on Mr Davis’s exit but Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said he hoped a change in faces might lead to a change in policy.
What does it all mean for Brexit?
The UK and the EU have been negotiating Brexit terms for more than a year now and have been hoping to agree broad aims for their future relationship in October.
The aim of the Chequers away day had been to agree the UK position – after two years of discussion – but the resignations have put a question mark over that deal.
The uncertainty in the UK comes before the plan is officially put to the European Union, who may well be unhappy with aspects of it they have previously referred to as “cherry picking”.
One other element of Friday’s agreement worth noting is that it pledged to speed up preparations for the UK to be ready to leave the EU without a Brexit deal in March next year.
Boris Johnson tells PM she is suffocating Brexit ‘dream’}