Okay, so a lot has happened over the course of a few days in British politics. Just in the last 24 hours, 2 prominent members of Theresa May’s cabinet have resigned, sparking questions about whether her leadership will be challenged. This has come at a crucial moment, when the prime minister has finally revealed the UK’s official position on our future relationship with the EU. Let’s break this down.
On Friday, May met with senior cabinet ministers at Chequers, Buckinghamshire to finalise her post-Brexit strategy and ensure that the cabinet supported her (Chequers is the UK prime ministerial retreat, usually used for important meetings with foreign leaders!). May left the meeting with the confidence that her cabinet supported her and released the UK Government’s official post-Brexit strategy. The proposed plan involves setting up a free trade area for industrial and agricultural goods with the EU, based on a “common rule book”. Though, most media outlets were convinced that not every cabinet member was swayed over, most notably Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Skip to late on Sunday evening, Brexit Secretary David Davis (the man in charge of negotiating with the EU) had handed in his resignation to the prime minister!
Though not surprising, since he never supported any sort of relationship with the EU, the abrupt nature of his resignation – especially before negotiations could continue today – was certainly a blow to May’s rhetoric of a united force. This morning, May was quick to replace Davis with Dominic Raab (another prominent Brexit supporter) and ensure that all was calm in the cabinet.
And then May hit another speedbump, with another resignation.
This afternoon, Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary. Johnson cited his disagreements with May over her post-Brexit strategy as the main reason for his departure, but again, this was no surprise. Ultimately, a full-blown cabinet crisis may have emerged.
With regards to David Davis’ resignation, this is a huge issue for Theresa May, as the prime minister needed a Brexiteer perspective for the negotiations to ensure there was no leaning towards remaining in the EU at all. But Johnson’s resignation, while unhelpful, had definitely been a blessing that’s been a long time coming. May placed Johnson in the position of Foreign Secretary to keep him under her watchful eye, while offering him a significant challenge after his supposed attempt to become prime minister soon after the referendum in 2016. As they say, keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. The hope is that with his resignation, Johnson will hopefully sink into obscurity, only occasionally speaking to the press about Brexit. With no cabinet position, problems in his own constituency regarding Heathrow expansion and an end to his role as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson will have little choice but to return to the back bench.
May has now replaced Johnson with Jeremy Hunt (You know, the politician who caused those doctor’s strikes), with the hope that these new members will be more supportive of her post-Brexit strategy.
If any more cabinet members resign, May might be forced the call to duty some pretty obscure Conservative MPs, since they’ll be no front benchers left!