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Resignations leave British government in Brexit chaos

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, left, and secretary of state for Exiting the European Union David Davis who have resigned from the government. Picture by Gareth Fuller, Press Association

In the space of less than 24 hours, Theresa May has learned that reconciling her deeply divided party to a compromise deal on Brexit is a virtually impossible task.

So diametrically opposed are the Brexiteers and the Remainers in the Tory Party that finding common ground that satisfies both sides is a challenge that may well be beyond this gravely weakened prime minister.

There is no doubt that Mrs May is in an exceptionally difficult position. In an effort to stamp her authority on a polarised cabinet, she brought ministers together for a marathon meeting at Chequers on Friday following which she declared agreement on a plan to move matters forward.

Arch Leave campaigner Michael Gove acknowledged on Sunday morning he had some issues with the blueprint but that it 'unites the cabinet'.

However, late on Sunday, Brexit secretary David Davis dramatically quit his post, declaring that he has disagreed with Number 10 on a 'significant number of occasions' in the last year, including on the language over Northern Ireland in the December joint report.

Mr Davis, it has to be said, was not regarded as the most focused minister in terms of the detailed negotiations over leaving the EU. It was only after months of sustained criticism that he deigned to visit the border area.

Within hours of Mr Davis's departure, Boris Johnson also resigned, dealing a further blow to Mrs May.

In truth, Mr Johnson had little option but to follow after the Brexit secretary stepped down. Whatever credibility he had among Brexiteers would have disappeared if he had stayed to defend a plan he strongly disliked.

The question is what happens now?

Mrs May put up a robust performance in the House of Commons yesterday but there is no escaping the deep sense of crisis engulfing the British government at this crucial time.

Open warfare, a precarious majority and no guarantee the EU will even accept the Chequers plan.

It is a complete mess which must increase the chances of a no deal when Britain leaves the EU next March.

 

 

 

 

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