Conservatives Ben Bradley and Maria Caulfield have quit their posts in protest to Prime Minister May's latest Brexit compromise. The resignations come on the heels of Boris Johnson and David Davis quitting.
US President Donald Trump says he expects the UK to be in "turmoil" when he visits this week and British politicians are continuing to add to that atmosphere. On Tuesday, two Conservative party vice chairs, Ben Bradley of Mansfield and Maria Caulfield of Lewes, both resigned in protest to British Prime Minister Theresa May's so-called Chequers Brexit compromise.
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The resignations come on the heels of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's resignations over May's plan on Sunday and Monday respectively. Although Tuesday's departures came from lesser-known politicians, observers say those opposing May's Brexit compromise are trying to force her into another change of tack.
'Bad for the country and bad for the party'
Both departing politicians claimed they would lose their seats in elections should the party not deliver on Brexit. In her letter of resignation, Caulfield, the Tories' vice chair for women, told May her compromise would be "bad for our country and bad for the party. The direct consequences of that will be Prime Minister Corbyn," a reference to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
A Leave supporter during the 2016 Brexit referendum, Caulfield criticized May's plan as failing to "fully embrace the opportunities that Brexit can provide."
In her letter of resignation, Maria Caulfield wrote that May's Chequers compromise would be 'bad for the country and bad for the party'
Bradley, who was the vice chair for youth and backed the Remain camp during the referendum, said, "I cannot with any sincerity defend this course to my electorate, 71 percent of whom voted to leave the European Union." He, too, said May's new course damaged the opportunities provided by Brexit.
Some of the most crucial traditional election battlegrounds between the Conservatives and Labour, many of which are in the north of England, also voted predominantly in favor of leaving the EU in 2016's referendum.
Backstop causing discontent
Both exiting vice chairs — of which the Conservative party has nine in total — cited May's acceptance of the so-called backstop proposal, maintaining regulatory alignment at the Irish border in the event that no other post-Brexit customs arrangements be found, as the reason for their departure.
The basis of the plan is for the entire UK to remain in the customs union beyond the date at which it is scheduled to leave the single market in December 2020. At that point, a temporary customs arrangement could be put in place between the EU and the UK, allowing the UK to sign partial free trade agreements with other countries.
More vocal Leave advocates tend to argue that this would hamstring the UK in efforts to reach trade deals with other countries, as it would still be tied to EU standards and norms. Meanwhile, the plan has also faced criticism from Remainers, some of whom argue that staying would be preferable to half-leaving the bloc.
Partial agreements reached with other countries during continued EU alignment would be largely superfluous as they would not cover tariffs. The UK government expects to be able to fully able to enter future customs agreements by December 2021 at the latest.
All this is subject to the proposal meeting EU approval, although the Chequers compromise is seen as the first serious attempt by May's government — two years after the referendum — to come up with a plan that might be acceptable to Brussels.
js/msh (dpa, Reuters)