UK Justice minister Phillip Lee quits over Brexit

2018-06-13 02:22:32 GMT2018-06-13 10:22:32(Beijing Time) Sina English

A British minister dramatically resigned yesterday in protest at PM Theresa May’s refusal to give Parliament a proper vote on Brexit negotiations.

Justice minister Phillip Lee quit live on stage after accusing Downing Street of fobbing off MPs with a bogus choice “between a bad deal and a cliff-edge”.

The loyalist, a friend of Mrs May who attended his wedding, said he could not look his children “in the eye” if he failed to speak out against an EU exit process that was being mishandled and would harm the country.

He added: “I believe the evidence now shows that the Brexit policy our Government is currently pursuing … is detrimental to the people we are elected to serve.”

The bombshell resignation came hours before the PM faced a series of crunch votes, including a rebellion over the issue of whether MPs can have a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.

There were rumours of a last-minute concession being considered at No 10.

Pro-Europe Tory MPs said more resignations could follow with up to eight junior and middle-ranking ministers who could leave unless Mrs May stood up to “hard Brexiteers” led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Dr Lee resigned during a speech at the Bright Blue think tank. He also called for Brexit to be postponed and for a second EU referendum on any exit deal secured by Mrs May.

He said: “If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s current exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.”

Ex-minister Nick Boles said: “I admire his honesty and integrity.” In a dig at David Davis he went on: “So much classier to resign on principle when nobody is expecting it, than to threaten resignation but never follow through.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable praised his “courage”, Labour’s Chuka Umunna called it a “hugely significant moment” while Green leader Caroline Lucas said: “I hope that other ministers will search their consciences and do the same.” The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “His reasons for resigning are a matter for him.”

Downing Street this morning looked set to face down Tory rebels on the “meaningful vote” revolt in the Commons, the biggest of today’s so-called Super Tuesday divisions.

No 10 threw out a compromise offered by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve that would give the House of Commons a vote to make ministers offer a new deal without going as far as letting Parliament dictate terms.

By rejecting the olive branch from the leading soft-Brexit backer, No 10 was gambling it could face down a hardline House of Lords amendment that could empower Parliament to take charge.

Writing in today’s Standard, Mr Grieve warned MPs would not “abdicate responsibility” for holding the Government to account, “but this is going to involve us all standing up to those intent on stopping us from doing so”.

Downing Street’s calculations were then upset by the departure of Dr Lee, the 47-year-old Conservative MP for Bracknell, a loyalist who has only ever rebelled on HS2, a local issue.

He said on Twitter: “I am incredibly sad to have had to announce my resignation as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government so I can better speak up for my constituents and country over how Brexit is currently being delivered. For me, this is about the important principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

“Resigning is a last resort — something I feel I must do because, for me, such a serious principle is being breached that I would find it hard to live with myself afterwards if I let it pass.”

Tory sources in his Leave-voting constituency said he may face protests from association members and officers.

His move raised the stakes for Mrs May as soft-Brexiteers who would have supported the Grieve amendment rejected the Government’s own offer: to give a statement to MPs within 28 days if MPs reject Mrs May’s Brexit deal this autumn but not to allow any fresh vote to accept or reject her new plan.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said: “Merely issuing a statement in response would make it a meaningless final vote.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said he would back the tough Lords amendment: “If the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament, she cannot be allowed to proceed with no deal. Parliament must decide what happens next.”

Brexit Secretary Mr Davis said there was no time for Parliament to haggle over details of the exit plan.

 Agencies

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