Boris Johnson has resigned as British foreign secretary, becoming the third minister in 24 hours to quit the government rather than back Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy for Brexit.
“This afternoon, the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary,” May’s Downing Street office said in a statement on Monday hours after Brexit minister David Davis stepped down.
“His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work,” the statement said.
In private, Johnson had reportedly criticized May’s plan for maintaining strong economic ties to the European Union even after an official exit from the bloc.
Since the cabinet approved the plan on Friday, however, Johnson had refrained from public comment.
The top diplomat was expected to co-host a summit on the Western Balkans in London on Monday, but failed to show up.
As the public face of the “Leave” campaign, Johnson’s resignation will deepen the sense of crisis around the prime minister, and increase the chances that she could face a vote of no confidence.
Shortly after the departure, May addressed Parliament about her new Brexit plan, saying she did not agree with Jonson and Davis about “the best way to honor” the result of the 2016 referendum.
“We do not agree about the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honoring the result of the referendum,” May said
May and EU leaders have been reluctant to address the possibility that the UK and the block might fail to reach a deal on Brexit.
“What we are proposing is challenging for the EU, it requires them to think again, to look beyond the positions they have taken so far and agree a new and fair balance of rights and obligations,” she told parliament.
Failure to reach a deal could imperil the EU’s budget, as well as the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
Opposition politicians were quick to capitalize on May’s troubles. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the premier of being incapable of negotiating a Brexit deal with the EU given the deep division within her own Conservative party.
Corbyn said Johnson and Davis had left a “sinking ship,” shattering the “illusion of unity” initially surrounding the prime minister’s Brexit plan.
“The Chequers compromise took two years to reach and two days to unravel,” he said. “We have a crisis in government… it is clear this government cannot secure a good deal for Britain.”