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 since, Johnson decided he could not promote the deal.
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.”
After the Chequers summit, it emerged that Johnson had referred to attempts to sell the prime minister’s Brexit plan as ‘polishing a turd’, the Guardian reported on Monday.
His resignation follows that of the Brexit secretary, David Davis, and his No 2 at the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker.
As the flamboyant public face of the Vote Leave campaign, Johnson’s departure will deepen the sense of crisis around May, and increase the chances that she could face a vote of no confidence.
The prime minister was due to address her backbench MPs in Westminster at 5.30pm (local time), in an atmosphere becoming increasingly febrile. If 48 MPs write letters of no confidence to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, May will face a vote of no confidence.
Many of the prime minister’s supporters believe she would win such a contest, but if she lost, May would face a leadership challenge, with Johnson among the potential candidates.
In Davis’s resignation letter, he said he believes May’s proposal for a UK-EU free trade area governed by a “common rule book”, “hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense”.
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.