Amber Rudd accused Boris Johnson of 'political vandalism' and alleging he is not trying hard enough to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union
Boris Johnson suffered a major blow to his authority as British prime minister on Saturday as a senior member of his cabinet quit with a ferocious attack on his leadership.
Amber Rudd resigned as work and pensions secretary and left Johnson’s ruling Conservative party, accusing him of “political vandalism” and alleging he is not trying hard enough to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union.
In a furious resignation letter, Rudd said she could not accept Johnson’s decision to expel 21 Tory members of Parliament from the party over their refusal to follow his orders in a vote on his Brexit strategy this week.
I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip.
I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled.
I have spoken to the PM and my Association Chairman to explain.
I remain committed to the One Nation values that drew me into politics. pic.twitter.com/kYmZHbLMES— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) September 7, 2019
“This short sighted culling of my colleagues has stripped the party of broad minded and dedicated Conservative MPs,” she wrote to Johnson. “I cannot support this act of political vandalism.”
Rudd’s resignation plunges Johnson’s six-week-old administration deeper into turmoil after a dramatic and disastrous week.
His Brexit strategy was already in tatters after members of Parliament voted to stop him carrying out his threat to take the U.K. out of the EU with no deal on Oct. 31. Then they refused to grant him the emergency general election he wanted, and to cap it off his own brother resigned in protest at his plans. And adding to the mix on Saturday, former chancellor Philip Hammond told a local newspaper he’s taking legal advice over how Johnson treated him for rebelling.
The loss of Rudd, one of the most senior members of his team, and a key pro-European voice, will pile further pressure on Johnson. He is facing calls to abandon his aggressive stance toward his opponents and to drop his central pledge to exit the EU “do or die” at the end of next month.
Johnson insists he still wants a divorce deal with the EU and has repeatedly claimed in recent days that negotiations with the EU are progressing positively.
In her resignation letter, Rudd said this was not the case, according to the private evidence she has received from inside the government. Her view echoes warnings from European officials, who have said they regard the talks with Johnson’s envoy as a pretence.
“I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective,” Rudd wrote. “The government is spending a lot of energy to prepare for no-deal but I have not seen the same level of intensity go into our talks with the European Union who have asked us to present alternative arrangement to the Irish backstop.”
The latest Yougov poll, published over the weekend, suggests a hefty chunk of the electorate still backs Johnson’s strategy -- support for the Tories was unchanged at 35%.
In addition to Rudd, the Sunday Times newspaper in London reported at least one other minister is considering whether to resign.
Johnson’s office said Rudd knew she would have to sign up to potentially leaving the EU with no-deal when she took on the job in his cabinet.
“We are disappointed to learn that Amber has chosen to leave government and the party,” a spokesman for 10 Downing Street said in a statement. “She was a talented welfare minister but all ministers who joined joined cabinet signed up to leaving the EU on Oct. 31 come what may, delivering on the referendum result as the public were promised. That has not changed.”
Rudd told the Times said she planned to fight the next election as an “independent Conservative” and away from her current seat of Hastings & Rye, on the southern coast, where she has a majority of just 346