Theresa May stands her ground on Brexit deal after string of resignations

Prime Minister Theresa May holds a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, to discuss her Brexit plans. Picture by Matt Dunhaml/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May holds a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, to discuss her Brexit plans. Picture by Matt Dunhaml/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May struck a defiant tone after being hit by a wave of ministerial resignations and calls for her to be ousted as Prime Minister in a backlash over her Brexit plan.

Mrs May defended the blueprint thrashed out with negotiators in Brussels as she faced major challenges to her authority at home.

At a press conference in Number 10, Mrs May said: “I believe with every fibre of my being that the course I have set out is the right one for our country and all our people.”

She added: “Leadership is about taking the right decisions, not the easy ones.”

In the referendum, voters in Hartlepool cast 32,071 ballots in favour of Brexit, compared with 14,029 in favour of staying in the EU. The turnout was 65.5%.

Earlier yesterday Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit secretary, Esther McVey quit as Work and Pensions secretary and leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted a letter of no confidence in Mrs May in a bruising day for her premiership.

But Mrs May said: “As PM my job is to bring back a deal that delivers on the vote of the British people, that does that by ending free movement, all the things I raised in my statement, ensuring we are not sending vast annual sums to the EU any longer, ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, but also protects jobs and protects people’s livelihoods, protects our security, protects the union of the United Kingdom.

“I believe this is a deal which does deliver that, which is in the national interest, and am I going to see this through? Yes.”

Mr Raab and Ms McVey walked out of the Government the morning after Cabinet agreed a draft EU withdrawal agreement in a stormy five-hour meeting.

And International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, a Cabinet Brexiteer, is due to see the Prime Minister this evening, sources said.

Two more junior ministers - Suella Braverman at the Brexit department and Shailesh Vara at Northern Ireland also quit.

Labour said the Government was “falling apart before our eyes” and the pound dropped sharply as the turmoil in Westminster sparked doubts over whether the PM could force her deal through Parliament.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Raab said the deal represented a “very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” because of provisions for Northern Ireland.

He also said he could not accept “an indefinite backstop arrangement” for the Irish border.