Britain's Brexit Minister steps down; major blow to PM May
Britain's Brexit Minister David Davis and one of his deputies have resigned in a major blow to British PM Theresa May as she tries to unite her party to retain strong economic ties with the European Union. The resignations come two days after the cabinet approved the plan to unblock negotiations with Brussels at a meeting at PM's country retreat at Chequers outside London.
Davis opposed to the idea of free-trade with EU
Davis said unblocking negotiations with Brussels plan would "make the supposed control by Parliament illusory rather than real". He was particularly critical of the proposal for a "common rulebook" to allow free trade in goods, saying this hands control of large swathes of the economy to EU, which certainly isn't returning control of UK laws in real sense. Brexit Junior-Minister Steve Baker also resigned.
May thanks Davis for his service
"The general direction of policy will leave us in...a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one," Davis said in a letter to May. May replied in a letter saying that her Brexit plan "will undoubtedly mean the returning of powers from Brussels to the UK". "I would like to thank you for everything you have done over the past two years," she said.
Davis' role was increasingly overshadowed by May, others
Davis was appointed two years ago to head up the newly-created Department for Exiting the EU after Britain voted to leave the EU. He became the public face of Brexit, leading the British delegation in talks with Brussels, although his role had been increasingly overshadowed in recent months as May and her aides took a bigger role in the negotiating strategy.
Davis threatened to quit several times earlier
The 69-year-old Davis had reportedly threatened to quit several times over a perceived lack of firmness in Britain's negotiating stance but had remained strictly loyal to the Prime Minister in public.
May facing criticism from her own party
May is due to address the Parliament today to explain her plan for Britain to adopt EU rules on goods after Brexit, amid anger from MPs who want a cleaner break and businesses who say it may still cause economic harm. Conservative MP Peter Bone said Davis had done the right thing, adding May's proposals for a Brexit in name only are not acceptable.
Brussels yet to accept May's free trade plans
May's plan would create a free-trade area with EU for goods, to protect supply-chains in areas like manufacturing, while maintaining flexibility for Britain's dominant service sector. It's unclear whether Brussels will accept this, after repeatedly warning Britain it cannot "cherry-pick" bits of its single market.
Davis started his career at Tate and Lyle
Davis, a sharp operator, was a "Leave" campaigner in the referendum on Britain's EU membership. He was well-acquainted with the Brussels beat. He was Europe Minister between 1994-97 as the European issue tore apart then Conservative PM John Major's government. Born to a single mother and brought up on a public-housing estate in London, Davis pursued a career at sugar giant Tate and Lyle.
Davis was in the army before politics
Davis also served as a reservist in Special Air Service, the British army's elite special-forces unit, before entering politics. Noted for his love of climbing and flying, his ascent in politics began in 1987 when he was elected to parliament, representing a northern England seat.