Theresa May secures backing from cabinet for 'soft Brexit'


British media outlets say the most senior official in charge of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union has quit Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

I said on Thursday that David Davis had serious reservations about a Brexit plan which - although he is the Brexit Secretary - he felt he had too little role in drafting.

Peter Bone, a Eurosceptic MP allied to Mr Davis, told the BBC that he didn't see how the prime minister could get her Brexit plans through Parliament, and also that he couldn't see how she continue in her position if she didn't give into anger from the Conservative backbenches.

The Telegraph newspaper also quoted sources as saying that Steve Baker, a minister who worked for Davis in the Brexit department, had also resigned.

The Prime Minister commented on the resolutions on Friday, stating: "Today in detailed discussions the cabinet has agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU".

Some 34 per cent thought she should keep hold of the reigns, 24 per cent said she should resign now, while 24 per cent said she should step down after Britain formally leaves the European Union in March next year.

The agreement hammered out at the prime minister's country residence resolves - for the moment - a long-running dispute within the Cabinet over whether to sever all ties with the European Union or seek a more limited Brexit to help businesses accustomed to trading with continental Europe without customs payments or burdensome paperwork.

But Mr Davis, who signed up to the plan agreed by the cabinet at Chequers on Friday, has now quit.

"The cost, complexity and bureaucracy created by crashing out of the customs union and adopting alternative arrangements is the last thing that our businesses need as we seek to grow", they said in an open letter reported in The Times. The proposal would allow free movement of goods, but not of services. "Ideally the UK's proposals will facilitate both the UK's internal political debate and the negotiation with us".

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After 12 hours of talks at her country home of Chequers, none of her critics resigned in protest, though several were not happy with the overall "soft Brexit" package.

Meanwhile, a briefing from the European Research Group, a powerful group of backbench Conservative Brexit backers, said the position would lead to a "worst of all worlds black hole Brexit" and leave the United Kingdom stuck in a "regulatory tar pit", with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) still involved in trade disputes.

In her response, Mrs May said that "I do not agree with your characterisation of the policy we agreed at cabinet on Friday".

Opposition MPs were quick to raise the prospect of a general election as a result of the major blow for the Prime Minister.

Davis's resignation could embolden Brexit-supporting Conservative parliamentarians to challenge May's leadership.

Tories are being invited to briefings about the plans, with the Prime Minister set to address Conservative MPs at a meeting in Parliament on Monday.

"We have now seen Theresa May's true colours", said John Longworth, of the Leave Means Leave pro-Brexit pressure group.

James Cleverly, a deputy chairman of the party, said: "I went in there with some concerns as a Brexiteer and I come out with those concerns addressed".