UK House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, a prominent supporter of the country’s exit from the European Union (EU), has stepped down over Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.
Leadsom quit on Wednesday night, saying she had lost faith in the government’s approach to Brexit and therefore could not back the new Withdrawal Agreement Bill that May planned to present to the parliament on Thursday.
“I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result,” Leadsom said in her resignation letter to May. “It is therefore with great regret and with a heavy heart that I resign from the government.”
The surprise move came after May resisted growing calls to resign earlier in the day and pledged to press on with her plan which according to her critics is not very different from the previous versions, which have already been voted down in the Commons three times.
May’s latest gambit has been met with mounting opposition from lawmakers and even some of her own ministers, who are fed up with her handling of the divorce and won’t rule out quitting their jobs.
The new Brexit plan grants the Remain campaign a vote on whether to hold a second Brexit referendum, but only if her legislation passes the first stage.
As yet another incentive to opposition parties and pro-EU lawmakers, May’s new bill leaves the door open for trading arrangements with the EU in future as incentives to lawmakers, a major change from the clean exit that she promoted before.
The new bill has received heavy backlash from May’s own party, with several lawmakers who had supported her in previous Brexit votes saying they could not back the embattled PM this time..
“I have always maintained that a second referendum would be dangerously divisive, and I do not support the government willingly facilitating such a concession,” Leadsom said.
“No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have,” She wrote to May. “But I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party.”
On Twitter, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party Tom Watson described Leadsom’s timing as “odd,” as the Tories prepare for the European elections which will be held between May 23 and 26.
I accept that she may want to go but to do it the night before an election looks odd. It’s also a slap in the face to Tory party members who are working hard to get their candidates elected tomorrow.
May will meet the chair of the powerful 1922 committee of Conservative lawmakers on Friday, after campaigning for the upcoming European Parliament elections on Thursday.
Her office said she was disappointed by Leadsom’s decision but would nevertheless stay focused on delivering Brexit.
The Times reported that May was expected to announce her departure from office on Friday without citing sources.
In case of resignation, May will remain as prime minister until her successor is elected in a two-stage process under which two final candidates face a ballot of 125,000 Conservative Party members, the newspaper said.