Minister quits as pressure builds on Britain's Theresa May

British PM faces backlash over her new Brexit plan, as colleagues and rivals urge her to resign.

    Theresa May has said she would resign if her Brexit deal is approved [Peter Nicholls/Reuters]
    Theresa May has said she would resign if her Brexit deal is approved [Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

    British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under renewed pressure from both her own Conservative party and opposition MPs to scrap her much-derided new Brexit plan and resign.

    Several Conservative rivals and former allies pushed to remove her from office on Wednesday and a senior cabinet minister quit the government, attacking May's failure to take Britain out of the European Union.

    In her resignation letter sent late Wednesday, Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, said there had been "a complete breakdown of collective responsibility" in government, adding May's latest Brexit plan would not "deliver on the referendum result" that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.

    A Downing Street spokesman praised Leadsom and expressed disappointment at her decision, but added: "The prime minister remains focused on delivering the Brexit people voted for."

    Several senior ministers reportedly sought meetings with the embattled prime minister to discuss her Brexit plan, but May's spokesman said he was not aware of any discussions.

    Legislator Tom Tugendhat, a leading Conservative moderate, said the only chance of delivering an orderly Brexit was for May "to go - and without delay."

    "She must announce her resignation after Thursday's European elections. And the Conservative Party must fast track the leadership process to replace her," he wrote in the Financial Times.

    Conservative politician Andrew Bridgen told Reuters news agency: "It's now clear that the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party, the voluntary party and the electorate now agree. She has to go."

    Lawmaker Ian Lavery, chair of the main opposition Labour party, said Leadsom's resignation underlined that "the prime minister's authority is shot and her time is up".

    "For the sake of the country, Theresa May needs to go, and we need an immediate general election," he said.

    New Brexit plan backlash

    Earlier on Wednesday, May outlined her new Brexit plan, which includes a vote on whether to hold a second Brexit referendum, to parliament and urged legislators to back it amid a growing backlash.

    She said her new plan will guarantee workers' rights legislation and establish a new government department for environmental protection.

    She said the deal would "protect British jobs" by ending freedom of movement for British and EU citizens, continue to apply European agricultural and environmental regulations and give parliament a greater role in deciding the future relationship with the EU.

    May said if her deal were agreed by parliament before the summer recess, Britain could leave the EU by the end of July.

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    "By any definition, that is delivering Brexit," she told parliament on Wednesday.

    The prime minister has said she will set out a timetable for her departure in early June. She had already promised to leave office if her deal was approved by parliament.

    "In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box. But while I am here, I have a duty to be clear with the House about the facts," she said during a boisterous Commons debate.

    Senior members of her own party have called for her to abandon the vote on her plan and resign immediately, while former and current cabinet ministers are already jostling for position in the race to replace her.

    "She is desperate, she is deluded and she is doomed," David Davis, a former Brexit minister, told The Daily Telegraph.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg, ringleader of the most hardline Brexiteers on the Conservative backbenches, blamed May's decision to "tack to the left". 

    "Under constitutional conventions, a prime minister should recognise that she does not have a majority in the House and take the more dignified approach by tendering her resignation to the queen," the Financial Times quoted him as saying.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies