Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd quits
Secretary for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd has resigned from the Cabinet and relinquished the Conservative whip in opposition to the government’s Brexit strategy and the expulsion of 21 rebel MPs.
Hastings and Rye MP Rudd said that no “formal negotiations” were being held with the EU over a new deal, adding that 80-90 per cent of Brexit work was going into preparations for no-deal.
Her resignation of the Conservative whip alongside her cabinet position will see her sit as an independent MP in the Commons.
Environment minister Therese Coffey will replace her in the role, with Rudd telling the Sunday Times that she is weighing up whether to run as an independent Conservative at the next general election.
In her letter of resignation, Rudd wrote: "I joined your cabinet in good faith: accepting that no-deal had to be on the table, because it was the means by which we would have the best chance of achieving a new deal to leave on 31 October.
"However, I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government's main objective.”
She called Johnson’s decision to withdraw the whip from 21 MPs who voted against the government on the bill to block a no-deal Brexit in October, including former Chancellor Philip Hammond, an “act of political vandalism”.
Rudd added: "If we become a party which has no place for the type of moderates that I am, the centre-right Conservatives, then we will not win [a general election]”.
She also told the BBC that there was “very little evidence” that a new Brexit deal could be done, with “proper discussions about policy” having not materialised.
Rudd went on to claim that cabinet ministers had not been privy to legal advice shared with the prime minister about the upcoming prorogation of Parliament until mid-October.
Former Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt called her resignation “very sad news”, while Labour chair Ian Lavery used it as leverage to say that the prime minister has “run out of authority in record time”, calling his Brexit strategy “a sham”.
The SNP's leader in Westminster Ian Blackford called on Johnson to resign, having been left with “no support or credibility”.
However, incumbent Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab offered a different take on Rudd's resignation, saying that the prime minister had been clear that all his cabinet ministers must be behind his policy of leaving the EU by October 31 come what may.
Speaking to Sky News, Raab said: "We all accepted that, and I think the prime minister was right to restore some discipline. I think he's right to expect it from his top team”.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Sajid Javid has hit back at his former colleague’s claims, telling the BBC that a “tremendous amount of effort” was going into trying to negotiate a new deal and that ministers were “straining every sinew” in pursuit of it.
Javid said that the UK’s obvious preparations for a no-deal scenario would prompt the EU into working co-operatively toward a new deal, adding that “progress” had been made in talks about amending the existing withdrawal agreement.
He also suggested that the government had many “new ideas” on how to breach the impasse concerning the controversial Irish backstop, but stopped short of going into detail on the government’s proposals.
Javid said: “Anyone who understands how negotiation works, you would not discuss those in public”.