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15 November 2018

Will Theresa May’s Brexit deal bring down the government?

After several ministers resign over the deal, what’s next? Here’s everything you need to know

By Jonn Elledge

The 585-page Brexit deal Theresa May presented to her cabinet for discussion yesterday has sparked a series of resignations from the government, raising questions about the future of both the May premiership and Brexit itself.

The document outlines plans for a 21-month transition period, and a permanent backstop, under which – to prevent the need for a hard border in either Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – the entire UK would permanently remain in a customs union with the EU. During a marathon five-hour cabinet meeting yesterday, as many as ten ministers are understood to have spoken out against the deal.

A number of pro-Brexit ministers have since resigned, in protest at the fact the deal would permanently keep the UK within the regulatory orbit of the European Union.

Shailesh Vara, a minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office, became the first member of the government to quit, first thing this morning. He was soon followed by other ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.

One person who has not gone is Michael Gove. “Friends” say he was offered the post of Brexit secretary but turned it down. Watch this space.

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In some ways, this is a sideshow. As Stephen points out – has, indeed, been pointing out for months – there doesn’t seem to be a parliamentary majority for any deal that the EU would actually agree too.

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But a flood of resignations may well erase even that slim chance. It also raises the chances that Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, will receive the 48 letters required to trigger a confidence vote. (George explained that process last year.)

We’ll be updating this post, with links to commentary by our politics team, throughout the day.


  • Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary
  • Esther McVey, Work & Pensions Secretary
  • Shailesh Vara, Northern Ireland minister
  • Suella Braverman, parliamentary under secretary of state for Brexit
  • Anne Marie Trevelyan, PPS to the Ministry of Education
  • Ranil Jayawardena, PPS to the Ministry of Justice
  • Rehman Chisti, Tory vice-chair

Nikki Da Costa, the Downing Street director of legislative affairs, has reportedly gone too, but that matters less as she doesn’t have a vote in Parliament. 

Must-read blogs from the NS team:

  • Patrick on the list that proves Theresa May can’t pass a Brexit deal
  • It’s true that there is no majority for a no deal Brexit, but that may not matter: Stephen brings you sunshine
  • The Brexiteers only have themselves to blame for the UK’s disastrous fate (George)
  • Dominic Raab’s resignation takes Britain to the brink of a no-deal exit (Stephen)
  • A close reading of Dominic Raab’s resignation letter (Anoosh)
  • Esther McVey’s resignation shows May cannot reconcile her party with Brexit’s reality (Patrick)
  • Labour MPs who back Theresa May’s Brexit deal are betraying the national interest (Paul Mason)
  • Labour MPs’ fear now is whether rejecting May’s deal means No Deal Brexit or no Brexit at all (Stephen)
  • As things stand, Theresa May’s Brexit deal is not going to pass parliament. So what’s next? (Stephen)
  • From the archive: How to remove a Conservative leader (George)

And if you really want to go wild, here’s the full text of the Brexit deal.