Boris Johnson has resigned as British foreign secretary, becoming the third minister in 24 hours to walk out of the government.
On Sunday, David Davis, the most senior official in charge of Brexit negotiation, resigned after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she had finally united her quarrelsome government to support the plan.
Davis who was Brexit secretary told May in a letter that the government’s proposals for future trade ties with the bloc “will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one.”
His resignation Sunday night undermined May’s already fragile government, which has lost several ministers in the past year over sexual misconduct allegations and other scandals.
The prime minister hammered out a compromise with her deeply divided cabinet in an all-day meeting at Chequers on Friday, but after consulting friends and allies since, Johnson decided he could not promote the deal.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”
After the Chequers summit, it emerged that Johnson had referred to attempts to sell the prime minister’s Brexit plan as ‘polishing a turd’.
Steve Baker, also a senior negotiator, had earlier resigned.
As the flamboyant public face of the Vote Leave campaign, Johnson’s departure will deepen the sense of crisis around May, and increase the chances that she could face a vote of no confidence.
The prime minister was due to address her backbench MPs in Westminster at 5.30pm, in an atmosphere becoming increasingly febrile.
If 48 MPs write letters of no confidence to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, May will face a vote of no confidence.
Many of the prime minister’s supporters believe she would win such a contest, but if she lost, May would face a leadership challenge, with Johnson among the potential candidates.