Andrea Leadsom quits over Theresa May's Brexit bill

Leader of house known to be unhappy with some of 10 concessions set out by PM

Andrea Leadsom has resigned as the leader of the House of Commons, saying she no longer believed the government’s approach would deliver Brexit.

Leadsom, who has signalled she expects to launch a leadership bid, published her resignation letter after Theresa May resisted intense pressure to step aside.

She was one of several cabinet ministers, including Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid, who were known to be unhappy with some of the 10 concessions set out by May on Tuesday, in a bid to win the support of Labour backbenchers for her deal.

In particular, they felt they had not signed off one of the prime minister’s central pledges, to offer MPs a vote on holding a second Brexit referendum – and if necessary, legislate to hold one.

In her resignation letter, published on Twitter, Leadsom said she had previously accepted “some uncomfortable compromises” over Brexit, but continued: “I no longer believe our approach will deliver on the referendum result.”

It is with great regret and a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the Government.

— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) May 22, 2019

She listed four reasons: that May’s plan would not result in “a truly sovereign United Kingdom”; that a second referendum would be “dangerously divisive” and risk the union; that recent Brexit ideas “had not been properly scrutinised or approved by cabinet members”; and that divisions among ministers “has led to a complete breakdown of collective responsibility”.

Leadsom added: “I know there are elections tomorrow, and many Conservatives have worked hard to support our excellent candidates. I considered carefully the timing of the decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as leader of the house tomorrow, to announce a bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose.”

Praising May’s “integrity, resolution and determination”, the letter ended by urging the PM to “make the right decisions in the interest of the country, the government and our party”.

As Commons leader, Leadsom had been expected to lay out further details of the government’s plans for taking the withdrawal agreement bill through parliament on Thursday.

She is a committed Brexiter, who was due to go head-to-head with May in the Conservative leadership contest in the summer of 2016, before pulling out of the race.

Her departure puts the onus on other Brexiters in the cabinet known to have reservations about May’s plan to act, including Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt and Steve Barclay.

Reacting to Leadsom’s resignation, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said: “We are witnessing a government falling apart. My view is that when Theresa May goes, we should be given the offer of forming our own government.

“Whoever replaces her cannot be secure of maintain a majority in parliament.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Tory MP who resigned as a whip earlier this year, said: “This is a completely honourable resignation. She has gone for the right reasons.”


Heather Stewart and Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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