(CN) — Great Britain awoke Thursday to a day of political drama, including two Cabinet resignations, market volatility, a severely weakened prime minister, and nasty headlines, all in response to a draft agreement laying out the terms of its exit from the European Union.
Tory Prime Minister Theresa May announced the draft Brexit deal late Wednesday, to an immediate storm of dissent. Those on the right criticized it as a capitulation to Brussels — a “shackling” — and those on the left said signing the deal would leave Britain worse off than if it stayed within the European Union.
News broke in an avalanche Thursday morning.
First, the government’s junior minister for Northern Ireland, Shailesh Vara, announced his resignation. He said the deal “leaves the UK in a halfway house” because it would bind Britain to EU rules for years to come.
Shortly afterward, a much bigger crack appeared: Dominic Raab, Britain’s lead negotiator on the Brexit deal, resigned from May’s Cabinet. He was followed by the walkout of Esther McVey, the Cabinet’s work and pensions secretary.
Raab and McVey also criticized the deal for tying Britain to EU rules indefinitely. They called it a betrayal of the Brexit referendum of 2016, when a majority of Brits voted to leave the EU.
“This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust,” Raab said in his resignation letter.
“No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement,” he wrote.
The dissenters dominated the day — chief among them were members of the Labour Party, the main opposition. Labour has been divided on Brexit, though its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in the past has favored leaving the EU.
In the morning, Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, hit the airwaves to denounce the lack of details in the draft deal, in particular economic details. He also worried about clauses that he said would weaken environmental regulations. He said Labour would vote against the deal.
“It is inadequate in so many aspects,” he said on BBC radio. “Why on Earth would you back a deal as wrong as this?”
Also Thursday, the European Union announced a Nov. 25 summit to finalize the deal — but with a caveat.
The summit will take place “if nothing extraordinary happens,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European Commission, said.
And a lot of extraordinary twists and turns seem likely. By Thursday afternoon, a first major twist hit when Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a pro-Brexit group of Tories, submitted a letter seeking a no-confidence vote in May’s government.
In the letter, Rees-Mogg said he had hoped to avoid the “disagreeable nature” and “ill will” of a no-confidence vote, but his hand was forced following May's draft deal. He said May's deal broke promises she had made on making sure Britain made a clean break with Europe on trade and laws.
A no-confidence vote can be triggered when 48 Conservative lawmakers submit similar letters. If that happens, May would be forced out only if a majority of Tories voted against her.