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Will Theresa Mays Brexit deal bring down the government?

The 585-page Brexit deal Theresa May presented to her cabinet for discussion yesterday has sparked a series of resignations from the government, raising questions about the future of both the May premiership and Brexit itself.

The document outlines plans for a 21-month transition period, and a permanent backstop, under which – to prevent the need for a hard border in either Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – the entire UK would permanently remain in a customs union with the EU. During a marathon five-hour cabinet meeting yesterday, as many as ten ministers are understood to have spoken out against the deal.

A number of pro-Brexit ministers have since resigned, in protest at the fact the deal would permanently keep the UK within the regulatory orbit of the European Union.

Shailesh Vara, a minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office, became the first member of the government to quit, first thing this morning. He was soon followed by other ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.

One person who has not gone is Michael Gove. Hes rumoured to have been offered the post of Brexit secretary. Watch this space.

In some ways, this is a sideshow. As Stephen points out – has, indeed, been pointing out for months – there doesnt seem to be a parliamentary majority for any deal that the EU would actually agree too.

But a flood of resignations may well erase even that slim chance. It also raises the chances that Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, will receive the 48 letters required to trigger a confidence vote. (George explained that process last year.)

Well be updating this post, with links to commentary by our politics team, throughout the day.


  • Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary
  • Esther McVey, Work & Pensions Secretary
  • Shailesh Vara, Northern Ireland minister
  • Suella Braverman, parliamentary under secretary of state for Brexit
  • Anne Marie Trevelyan, PPS to the Ministry of Education
  • Ranil Jayawardena, PPS to the Ministry of Justice

Nikki Da Costa, the Downing Street director of legislative affairs, has reportedly gone too, but that matters less as she doesnt have a vote in Parliament.

Must-read blogs from the NS team:

  • The Brexiteers only have themselves to blame for the UKs disastrous fate (George)
  • Dominic Raabs resignation takes Britain to the brink of a no-deal exit (Stephen)
  • A close reading of Dominic Raabs resignation letter (Anoosh)
  • Esther McVeys resignation shows May cannot reconcile her party with Brexits reality (Patrick)
  • Labour MPs who back Theresa Mays Brexit deal are betraying the national interest (Paul Mason)
  • Labour MPs fear now is whether rejecting Mays deal means No Deal Brexit or no Brexit at all (Stephen)
  • As things stand, Theresa Mays Brexit deal is not going to pass parliament. So whats next? (Stephen)
  • From the archive: How to remove a Conservative leader (George)

And if you really want to go wild, heres the full text of the Brexit deal.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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