Davis quit after deciding he could not abide by the most recent Brexit framework May's government agreed to on 6 July. His resignation will force a government reshuffle and is a serious blow to pro-Brexit factions.
Davis’ exit triggered resignations from Steve Baker and Suella Braverman, two other Ministers of the Department for Exiting the EU. Their decision to leave their roles has upended the apparent consensus achieved in Cabinet on Friday.
The plan agreed to last week would have created a “free trade area” between the UK and EU that was governed by a common set of rules. The so-called Chequers plan (named after the Prime Minister’s country house) also proposed to establish a close customs relationship with the EU headquarters in Brussels and implement a shared framework for interpreting agreements between the UK and EU.
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Davis’ resignation was a symptom of a government in crisis. He tweeted that the move showed UK Prime Minister Theresa May “has no authority left and is incapable of delivering Brexit”.
David Davis resigning at such a crucial time shows @Theresa_May has no authority left and is incapable of delivering Brexit.
With her Government in chaos, if she clings on, it's clear she's more interested in hanging on for her own sake than serving the people of our country.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 8, 2018
Davis and May had been at loggerheads in recent weeks over the format the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would take. Davis favoured a looser relationship with the EU.
Davis and May trade open letters
In an open letter, Davis wrote: “There have been a significant number of occasions in the last year or so on which I have disagreed with the Number 10 policy line.
“At each stage I have accepted collective responsibility because it is part of my task to find workable compromises, and because I considered it was still possible to deliver on the mandate of the referendum, and on our manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.
“I am afraid that I think the current trend of policy and tactics is making that look less and less likely.”
David Davis quits UK government: who is he and why does he matter? https://t.co/RVruGD8aH9
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 9, 2018
A close supporter of Davis told reporters his exit was a “principled and honest decision” which he believes is in the national interest” and that he felt unable to support Friday’s decision.
May responded with her own open letter where she said it was a shame Davis had chosen to quit “when we have already made so much progress towards delivering such a smooth and successful Brexit,” and argued that Friday’s decision was consistent with the mandate the party gained when it won the 2017 UK election.
May pressured to finalise Brexit
With less than nine months remaining until the date of the UK’s proposed exit, Theresa May has been under pressure to finalise terms of the deal.
Some of the more pro-Brexit MPs in May’s government have threatened to challenge her leadership due to their dissatisfaction with what they see as unacceptable compromises in the Chequers plan.
Environment Minister Michael Gove called on all MPs to support Friday’s decision, saying it may not be ideal but was a “realist” proposal.
May is now faced with the task of finding a replacement for Davis who will be palatable to both the pro and anti Brexit factions within her Conservative Party.