International

Boris resigns as UK foreign secretary over Brexit discord

LONDON, Jul 9 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 7/10/2018 12:14:13 AM IST
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain was battling to save her government on Monday after her foreign secretary quit over Brexit, deepening a mood of crisis just eight months before the country is due to leave the European Union.
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was the second minister to leave her cabinet within 24 hours, as Mrs. May pushed ahead with a proposal that would keep Britain more closely tied to the European Union than hard-line conservatives want.
Just last week, she appeared to have won the full cabinet’s agreement on keeping Britain’s economy closely anchored to the European Union. But the resignations reopened speculation about a challenge to her leadership, something that Mrs. May’s official spokesman said she would fight.
But with the Brexiteers in the party in full revolt, Conservative insiders predicted further resignations unless and until Mrs. May drops her plan.
The turmoil comes days before a scheduled visit by President Trump, a champion of the kind of sharp break with the European Union that Mrs. May has deemed unworkable. She is nevertheless expected to seek assurances from Mr. Trump that the United States is ready to enter negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement.
Yet, in recent weeks, several major British employers have issued warnings over the risks of Brexit. Most prominently, Jaguar Land Rover said that a chaotic Brexit deal would threaten to derail more than $100 billion worth of investment plans in Britain and force the closure of some factories. Airbus and BMW also questioned whether they could continue to keep manufacturing facilities in the country under those conditions.
The public face of the 2016 campaign that persuaded Britons to quit the European Union, known as Brexit, Mr. Johnson is perhaps the most high-profile advocate of leaving the bloc.
On several occasions, Mr. Johnson had appeared to undermine Mrs. May’s strategy, and in comments that were recently leaked, he described her government as lacking “guts,” unfavorably comparing the prime minister’s negotiating style to that of President Trump.
After the surprise resignation of David Davis, Britain’s chief negotiator in withdrawal talks with the European Union, there was an ominous silence Monday morning from Mr. Johnson, who was scheduled to host a diplomatic meeting in London to discuss the western Balkans.
Then, around 3 p.m., Mrs. May’s office issued a statement that said simply: “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.”
The pound dropped against the dollar as news of the resignation broke, and Conservative lawmakers appealed to their colleagues not to demand a confidence vote in Mrs. May’s leadership.
Such a move could be set off by 48 of her party’s lawmakers — although it would take many more to dislodge her. Earlier, Mr. Davis told the BBC that he was not encouraging a challenge to Mrs. May, and ruled himself out as a contender if there were one.
But the resignation of Mr. Johnson renewed the debate just as Mrs. May was hoping that she had restored some stability to the government by announcing that the pro-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Raab would replace Mr. Davis.
Addressing Parliament on Monday, Mrs. May said the options presented so far by European Union negotiators were unacceptable to Britain.

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