Boris Johnson has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, saying the “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”.
In his letter resigning as foreign secretary, he said the prime minister was leading the UK into a “semi-Brexit” with the “status of a colony”.
His resignation came hours after Brexit Secretary David Davis quit the cabinet.
Mrs May said she was “sorry – and a little surprised” by Mr Johnson’s move after his apparent support on Friday.
She said the deal agreed by the cabinet after their “productive discussions” at Chequers would “honour the result of the referendum” and allow the UK to “take back control of our borders, our law and our money”.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been named as Mr Johnson’s replacement as foreign secretary, with Matt Hancock as the new health secretary.
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Mrs May’s official spokesman said she would fight any attempt to oust her as prime minister if the required 48 Tory MPs called for a contest.
She earlier faced her critics at a packed meeting of backbench Conservative MPs, many of whom share Mr Johnson’s concerns about her Brexit stance.
Loud applause could be heard at the end of the 1922 Committee meeting, which the PM attended for just over an hour.
Leaving the gathering, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he did not think there would be a confidence vote over Mrs May.
But ministerial aide Chris Green resigned his position as a parliamentary private secretary to the Department for Transport after the meeting, saying in a letter to Mrs May that she had confirmed his fears that “we would not really leave the EU” under her proposals.
Mr Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary Conor Burn has also stepped down. Brexit minister Steve Baker also left the government.
Housing minister Dominic Raab has replaced Mr Davis as Brexit secretary.
What Johnson says in his resignation letter
Mr Johnson does not pull any punches, saying Brexit “should be about opportunity and hope” and a “chance to do things differently”, but “that dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”.
He claims crucial decisions have been postponed, including preparations for a “no-deal” scenario, “with the result that we appear to be heading for a semi-Brexit, with large parts of the economy still locked in the EU system, but with no UK control over that system”.
The PM’s response to Johnson
In her letter accepting his resignation, the prime minister said she had allowed cabinet ministers “considerable latitude to express their individual views” on Brexit.
“But the agreement we reached on Friday marks the point where that is no longer the case and if you are not able to provide the support we need to secure this deal in the interests of the United Kingdom, it is right that you should step down.”
What prompted the row?
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree how trade will work between the UK and the EU afterwards.
There have been differences within the Conservatives over how far the UK should prioritise the…