LONDON: Boris Johnson has resigned as foreign secretary, becoming the third minister in 24 hours to walk out of the government rather than back Theresa May’s plans for a soft Brexit.
The prime minister hammered out a compromise with her deeply divided cabinet in an all-day meeting at Chequers on Friday, but after consulting friends and allies, Johnson decided he could not promote the deal.
Pressure on the foreign secretary had been mounting since fellow pro-Brexiter David Davis resigned as Brexit secretary on Sunday night, swiftly followed by his No 2 at the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”
Friends said Johnson had been finalising his resignation letter, but Downing Street announced his departure before he had completed it.
After the Chequers summit, it emerged that Johnson had referred to attempts to sell the prime minister’s Brexit plan as being akin to “polishing a turd”.
As the flamboyant public face of the Vote Leave campaign, his departure will deepen the sense of crisis around May, and increase the chances that she could face a vote of no confidence.
Johnson and his allies are particularly concerned about the risk that Britain’s ability to strike trade deals with non-EU countries will be severely limited under the Chequers approach. Brexiters have also been angered by what Baker told the BBC was “childish” briefing from No 10 over the treatment of pro-Brexit ministers at Chequers.
Labour’s deputy prime minister, Tom Watson, said: “Theresa May’s government is in meltdown. This is complete and utter chaos. The country is at a standstill with a divided and shambolic government. This prime minister can’t deliver Brexit and has zero authority left.”
Speculation was swirling at Westminster about other possible resignations by senior Brexiters.