Sam Gyimah resigns over Theresa May's 'naive' Brexit deal
Ex-minister says Britain is giving up ‘our voice, our veto and our vote’ in Europe
Sam Gyimah, who has resigned as universities minister in protest over the government’s Brexit plan. Photograph: PA
Britain’s Universities and Science Minister Sam Gyimah on Saturday became the latest minister to quit the government over prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, has dismissed her agreement with Brussels as a “deal in name only”.
Mr Gyimah said Britain was giving up “our voice, our veto and our vote” in Europe and would get “hammered” in the next stage of the talks on future relations with the EU.
He urged the prime minister not to rule out a second referendum if - as many at Westminster expect - she is defeated in the crucial Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on December 11th.
Senior ministers continued to argue that while the agreement was not perfect, it was the best that could be achieved. However, with scores of Tory MPs now publicly opposed to the deal, Mr Gyimah’s departure highlights the scale of the task facing Mrs May if she is to avoid a potentially crippling defeat in the Commons.
He is the seventh minister and ministerial aide to resign from the government since Mrs May unveiled the draft Withdrawal Agreement less than three weeks ago.
Like Jo Johnson, who quit as transport minister, Mr Gyimah backed Remain in the referendum, underlining the fact that opposition to the deal comes from both the Leave and Remain wings of the party.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Gyimah said: “Looking at the deal in detail, we don’t actually have deal.
“ We have a deal in name only. We have given up our voice, our veto and our vote. Our interests will be hammered because we will have no leverage.
“My worry is the British public will be sleepwalking into a situation where we will wake up and find out that we are no longer equal partners with the countries in Europe.
“We are pure supplicants and rule takers. The democratic deficit and the loss of sovereignty that will result in that situation is one the British public, rightly, will never accept.”
After Mrs May, in Argentina for the G20 summit, announced she was finally giving up on efforts to secure access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system, Mr Gyimah said the EU’s uncompromising stance foreshadowed the way it would approach the rest of the negotiations.
“What has happened with Galileo is a foretaste of the brutal negotiations we will go through that will weaken our national interest, make us poorer, less secure,” he said.
He said that if parliament does vote down the deal, Mrs May’s only realistic option may be to put the decision to the country in a second referendum, even though he acknowledged Leave could win again.
“There is a blocking minority in the House of Commons for almost every possible option which means that letting the people decide, now that we know more, might be the most sensible path for both Leavers and Remainers,” he said.
“The prime minister has already taken one step in that direction by appealing to the country to put pressure on MPs to vote for her deal.
“If you are going to appeal to the country to put pressure on MPs to vote for a deal then by all means you can give the decision to the country in terms of which direction we go in.
“If we want to avoid to avoid chaos and we want to make sure we are dealing with a decision that is irreversible I would rather go down that path than a go down a path that would cripple our interests for generations to come.” Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said that as MPs and ministers decided which way to vote, they would have to compare the deal with the “realistically available alternatives”.
“All of my colleagues are going to have to make their own judgment about what they think about this deal,” he told the 4 Today programme.
Resignations since the Chequers meeting:
- David Davis, Brexit secretary: Mr Davis left his role on July 8th, two days after the Chequers plan was agreed. In his resignation letter, he said the role should be filled by someone who was an “enthusiastic believer in your approach, and not merely a reluctant conscript”.
Key quote: “The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one.”
- Steve Baker, Brexit minister: Mr Baker followed Mr Davis a day later in resigning over Government strategy on Brexit.
Key quote: “I cannot support this policy with the sincerity and resolve which will be necessary.”
- Boris Johnson, foreign secretary
Mr Johnson became the third departure in two days, saying the Chequers agreement was leaving the UK was heading towards “the status of colony” and the Brexit dream “was dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”.
Key quote: “As I said then, the Government now has a song to sing. The trouble is that I have practised the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat.”
- Chris Green, parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the transport secretary:
Mr Green also left following the Chequers deal on July 8, saying he feared Mrs May’s proposals would mean “we would not really leave the EU”.
Key quote: “I recognise that delivering Brexit is challenging, however I had hoped at tonight’s meeting that there would be some certainty that my fears were unfounded but, instead, they have been confirmed.”
- Conor Burns, PPS to the foreign secretary: Mr Burns followed Mr Johnson out the door on July 9th, saying he wanted “to see the referendum result respected”.
Key quote: “I’ve decided it’s time to have greater freedom.”
- Robert Courts, PPS to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: David Cameron’s replacement in the Witney constituency left his role on July 15 over Chequers, saying that he could not tell people in his constituency that he supported the proposals in their current form.
Key quote: “I had to think who I wanted to see in the mirror for the rest of my life.”
- Ben Bradley, Conservative party vice-chairman: The Mansfield MP also left over Chequers on July 10, saying he owed it to his constituents to “raise concerns and speak freely” over the policy.
Key quote: “If we do not deliver Brexit in spirit as well as in name, then we are handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10.”
- Maria Caulfield, Conservative party vice-chairman: Mrs Caulfield also left on July 10, saying Chequers “will be bad for our country and bad for the party”.
Key quote: “I cannot support the direction of travel in the Brexit negotiations which, in my view, do not fully embrace the opportunities that Brexit can provide.”
- Scott Mann, PPS to the Treasury: Mr Mann, MP for North Cornwall, left his role on July 16 as he felt aspects of the Brexit white paper would put him in “direct conflict” with views of his constituents.
Key quote: “I am not prepared to compromise their wishes to deliver a watered-down Brexit.”
- Guto Bebb, defence minister: Mr Bebb voted against the Government on changes to customs legislation rlating to Brexit, effectively quitting his frontbench role on July 16th.
Key quote: “I felt duty bound to try and vote to highlight the fact that the Conservative Party should be led by the prime minister not by the leadership of the ERG (European Research Group) group.”
- Jo Johnson, transport minister: The brother of Boris became the second Johnson to leave when he resigned on November 9 to vote against the Brexit deal, saying the choice being offered to the British people was “no choice at all”.
Key quote: “To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”
- Dominic Raab, Brexit secretary: Mr Raab left his role on November 15th following the publication of the draft Withdrawal Agreement citing a number of concerns, saying the backstop arrangement to prevent a border with Northern Ireland was “a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom”.
Key quote: “Ultimately, you deserve a Brexit Secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction. I am only sorry, in good conscience, that I cannot.”
- Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary: Mrs McVey followed Mr Raab’s resignation, saying it was “obvious” Mrs May’s plans failed to “honour the result” of the referendum.
Key quote: “We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal. I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal.”
- Suella Braverman, Brexit minister: Ms Braverman left her role - which she called a “dream job” - over the Withdrawal Agreement, saying she had concerns about the backstop.
Key quote: “I have reached a point where I feel that these concessions do not respect the will of the people — the people who put us here and whom we humbly serve. We must not let them down.”
- Shailesh Vara, Northern Ireland minister: Mr Vara said the result of the referendum was “decisive” and that the Government “must deliver”, and that he could not support the Withdrawal Agreement.
Key quote: “It leaves the UK in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.”
- Rehman Chishti, Conservative party vice-chairman:
Mr Chishti cited the Withdrawal Agreement and a “lack of leadership” on the Asia Bibi case as reasons for leaving.
Key quote: “The UK in effect will be part of a system where it will be a rule taker without any say on the rules.”
- Ranil Jayawardena, PPS at Ministry of Justice:
Mr Jayawardena said the draft Withdrawal Agreement would not allow the country to “take back control” of laws, adding: “I entered public service not to be defined by the European question, but to deliver for my constituents and for our country.”
Key quote: “I cannot agree, in the cold light of day, that the deal in front of us today is right for our country. It does not deliver a good and fair Brexit.”
- Anne-Marie Trevelyan, PPS to Department of Education:
The Berwick-upon-Tweed MP said she had struggled “for months” to continue to support Mrs May on Brexit as she “battled through” negotiations but that she could not back the Withdrawal Agreement.
Key quote: “I believe we must protect the Brexit mandate by trying to secure a deal which understands the spirit of the referendum.”
- Sam Gyimah, universities minister:
Mr Gyimah said he could not support Mrs May as he felt the deal would leave Britain “poorer, less secure and weaker in the pursuit of our national interests”, thus leaving his role on November 30.
Key quote: “It has become increasingly clear to me that the proposed deal is not in the British national interest, and that to vote for this deal is to set ourselves up for failure. We will be losing, not taking control of our national destiny.” - PA