By Ben Kerrigan
The justice minister Phillip Lee has resigned over his views of how the UK government is handling Brexit.
Lee’s decision to quit will pile further pressure on Theresa May before key Commons votes on the EU withdrawal bill, but the fact he is not a leave minister reduces the impact of his departure. Dr Phillip Lee said he was standing down in order to “speak up” for his country, saying he would vote against Mrs May in support of a move to give MPs more control over the final stages of Brexit talks.
The now former justice minister expressed his view for voters should have a second referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal, adding that he feared Mrs May was leading the country “along a path that the evidence and rational consideration indicate would be damaging”.The minister for victims, youth and victim support is close to May and would have been expected to at least select a different time to resign, allowing the scheduled vote for Tuesday and Wednesday to go ahead as planned. Any strong objections he has about the struggling Brexit processes should have been expressed as part of his vote.
Phillip Lee said he was “incredibly sad” to stand down, but that he believed the government’s Brexit policy was detrimental to the lives of his constituents. Dr Lee said he could not ‘look his children in the eye’ and support the way Brexit is ‘currently being delivered’. The minister also insisted he wanted to ‘speak up for his constituents’ – even though Eurosceptics pointed out his Bracknell seat voted 53 per cent to Leave in the referendum and the local party chair criticised his move.
The minister announced his resignation live on stage during a speech in London, in what will be considered one of the worst betrayals for the prime minister. e said: ‘If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.’
He indicated he would vote for the Lords’ amendment giving the Commons even more powers over Brexit in the event of a vote against the government’s negotiated deal. It was also rumoured that other Pro Remain rebels were set to follow suit, but nothing concrete has yet emerged from those whispers. Pro Remain rebels had an early meeting in the Commons on Tuesday morning. Plenty of negotiating and influencing will be occurring among ministers, but the unity of the Conservative party couldn’t be any more urgent and desperate than now. The troubling issue is that if the path of Brexit is taking a strange or impossible turn, the call for another referendum may become ever so strong. The question is whether the British public has the appetite for a radical turn of events in light of the clear bumps on the road ahead of Brexit procedures
As he did so, the pro-Remain rebels were finishing their 9am meeting in the Commons.
The debate on a “meaningful vote” on any final Brexit deal will now be tense, leaving Theresa May with crossed fingers that her government doesn’t go peer shaped following a negative vote. The Conservative party is struggling to keep its political form in the face of a continuously challenging Brexit that has presented stumbles on every inch of the way ever since Britain voted to leave the EU. Challenges have not ceased, with many very suspicious that EU leaders are deliberately creating difficult conditions for the Uk to abide by. Eu chiefs have always insisted that leaving the EU has certain automatic consequences, and that the Uk cannot pick and choose what it wants.
Lee, the MP for Bracknell since 2010, confirmed on Twitter that he was quitting in order to back the meaningful vote amendment, and also said he would support a second referendum on the final Brexit deal.
In a statement on his website, he wrote: “The main reason for my taking this decision now is the Brexit process and the government’s wish to limit parliament’s role in contributing to the final outcome in a vote that takes place today.