Theresa May will meet with her reshuffled cabinet on Tuesday morning after she warned hardline Brexiters to fall into line or risk handing power to Jeremy Corbyn. It follows Boris Johnson’s departure on Monday when he became the second cabinet minister to resign in 24 hours, claiming Britain was “headed for the status of colony”.
After a dramatic day of twists and turns in Westminster, the prime minister addressed Conservative MPs for an hour on Monday, issuing a stark warning that divided parties lose elections and telling her party that “to lead is to decide”.
She then returned to Downing Street to fill the gaps left on the government benches by several resignations, sparked by the Brexit secretary, David Davis, who stepped down late on Sunday night.
“If we don’t pull together, we risk the election of Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister,” one cabinet minister said, summarising what was said at the meeting. “At least half a dozen people made that point and the prime minister responded, too – what is good for the country is a Conservative government.”
Earlier, Downing Street announced Johnson’s resignation as foreign secretary, just minutes before May addressed MPs about the softer Brexit plan agreed at Chequers on Friday.
Johnson had been due to host a summit about the western Balkans on Monday afternoon but was instead holed up in his official residence with close advisers, considering his position.
In a strongly worded resignation letter, he warned that the current Brexit plan meant Britain was “truly headed for the status of colony” and accused the prime minister of “sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them”.
On Monday evening, Johnson was replaced as foreign secretary by Jeremy Hunt, who in turn was replaced as health secretary by Matt Hancock, as the prime minister embarked on a reshuffle to shore up her position.
Both men have proven their loyalty to May in recent months. Hunt recently won a significant increase in resources for the NHS after a standoff with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and is widely regarded as a potential future leadership candidate.
As the flamboyant public face of the Vote Leave campaign, Johnson’s departure deepened the sense of crisis in Downing Street, and increased the chances that May could face a vote of no confidence in the coming days.
If 48 Conservative MPs write letters of no confidence to the chair of the backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady, she would face an immediate vote, but he made clear on Monday night that point had not been reached.
Many of the…