British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged on Monday to pursue a newly agreed strategy to quit the European Union, in a challenge to those who may want to follow her former Brexit minister and quit in protest at what he called her “dangerous” plans.
The late-night departure of David Davis has raised the stakes for May, who hailed the hard-won agreement with her deeply divided cabinet of ministers on Friday to keep the closest possible trading ties with the EU.
But her spokesman signaled on Monday she would not back down over the “business friendly” agreement, saying May would now focus on moving the Brexit negotiations forward - a step EU officials and businesses have long called for.
EU Commission says to continue talks with Britain after Davis resigns
Davis, who campaigned for Brexit in Britain’s 2016 referendum, said he had resigned because the cabinet deal had given “too much away, too easily” to EU negotiators, who, he feared, would simply ask for more.
Sterling rose, as traders bet Davis’s resignation would not imperil May and instead focused on the newly-announced deal that markets believe makes a “soft Brexit” more likely.
Many eurosceptics have expressed anger over the agreed negotiating stance, calling it a betrayal of her promise for a clean break with the bloc that has raised the prospect that some could try to unseat her.
But by appointing Brexit campaigner Dominic Raab as Davis’s replacement, May might hope to quell some of that anger.
“The PM said in her letter to the secretary of state that she didn’t agree with his characterization of the position. An agreement was reached by the cabinet on Friday and now we are moving forward to negotiate that plan,” the spokesman told reporters.
“As the prime minister said ... we have set out our position and it is now the EU’s turn to move and that she wants the EU to get serious in these negotiations.”
Davis’s resignation may also further disrupt Brexit talks, with less than nine months before Britain leaves and just over three before the EU says it wants a deal that will mark Britain’s biggest foreign and trade policy shift in decades.
But much of the day-to-day negotiation falls to May’s office. The prime minister’s Europe adviser, Oliver Robbins, has mostly led the talks in Brussels, with the Brexit minister taking a more coordinating role at home.