MP Shailesh Vara has quit his job in the Government over Theresa May’s Brexit deal which he claims would leave the UK in a “half-way house”.
The Northern Ireland minister, whose North West Cambridgeshire constituency covers much of Peterborough, became the first minister to quit since the deal was struck as he announced his resignation this morning.
Mr Vara voted Remain in the referendum, and he tweeted that he was quitting his job with “much sadness and regret”.
He wrote: “The EU Referendum offered a simple choice - to either stay in or leave the UK. The result was decisive with the UK voting to leave and that is what we, their elected representatives, must deliver.
“The agreement put forward, however, does not do that as it leaves the UK in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.
“Given the past performance of the EU, there is every possibility that UK-EU trade deal that we seek will take years to conclude. We will be locked in a Customs Arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say.”
Mr Vara also said the deal would make Northern Ireland subject to a “different relationship with the EU from the rest of the UK”.
He added: “We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart.
“We can and must do better than this. The people of the UK deserve better. That is why I cannot support this agreement.”
The Daily Telegraph reported in June that Mr Vara was considering quitting the Government after having talks with an anti-Brexit campaign group called Best for Britain, but Mr Vara angrily denied this, saying he would actually support Leave if a second referendum was called.
Back in September 2017 he also said: “Despite the tough talk from the EU we need to recognise that our negotiating position is a lot stronger than many believe.”
Mr Vara’s resignation was soon followed by Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk has announced an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on November 25, at which the withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future relations will be finalised and formalised.
Mr Vara’s departure comes amid a furious backlash from Brexit-backing Tories to the deal agreed by UK and EU negotiators four months ahead of the UK’s scheduled withdrawal on March 29.
Westminster was braced for further resignations, amid widespread expectations that the Prime Minister may face a challenge to her position from Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence in her leadership.
The Prime Minister faces a battle to get the deal through Parliament as pro-Leave Conservative MPs - as well as some Remainers - lined up to condemn the plan, accusing her of breaking promises and leaving the UK at the mercy of Brussels.