Junior minister quits over UK’s Brexit delay plan

Conservative MP George Eustice The Conservative MP voted to leave the European Union in Britain’s 2016 referendum vote. (AFP pic)

LONDON: A junior member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government quit Thursday over her decision this week to give MPs the option to delay Brexit, a day after 20 Brexit hardliners voted against her move.

Agriculture minister George Eustice said he feared the move “will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country.”

The Conservative MP voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum vote, and backs the withdrawal deal May has struck with the bloc.

But the House of Commons on Jan 15 overwhelmingly rejected the deal, sending the prime minister back to Brussels to change its arrangements for the Irish border.

May has promised to put the text to MPs again by March 12 and if they reject it, to allow a vote on whether Britain should leave the EU with no deal, or seek to delay Brexit beyond March 29.

“We cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless we are prepared to walk through the door,” Eustice wrote in his resignation letter.

May does not want to delay Brexit but altered her strategy after several cabinet ministers warned they would not accept a “no deal” exit.

The new approach was condemned by some Brexit supporters in her Conservative party, 20 of whom voted against the plan on Wednesday night.

Dozens more abstained in what was seen as a show of defiance, although the strategy was endorsed by a large majority of MPs, by 502 votes to 20.