Politics 15 November 2018 | 10:53

Brexit Deal-Watch 2: McVey twists the knife

15 November 2018 10:53

Yes, me again. We’d better get used to this because there’s going to be lots of it. Sorry, but that’s historic constitutional crises for you.

As widely expected, Esther McVey has this morning resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary. Her reservations about the trajectory of Theresa May’s negotiations with Brussels were no secret and, along with Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt, she had made clear in the last few weeks that her continued membership of the Cabinet was entirely conditional on the content of the eventual agreement.

So it probably wasn’t a good idea to resist so aggressively her suggestion yesterday that she and her colleagues round the table hold a vote on the deal. According to which reports you believe, McVey was, or wasn’t, in tears. What isn’t disputed is her fury at the manner of her treatment and at the PM’s attempt to steamroller through a manifestly terrible document.

Here is an extract from her resignation letter:

The proposals put before cabinet, which will soon be judged by the entire country, mean handing over around £39bn to the EU without anything in return. It will trap us in a customs union, despite you specifically promising the British people we would not be. It will bind the hands of not only this, but future governments in pursuing genuine free trade policies. We wouldn’t be taking back control, we would be handing over control to the EU and even to a third country for arbitration …We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal.

Suella Braverman, a junior Brexit minister, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, PPS at the Education Department, have also quit. The spotlight now swings towards Penny Mordaunt, who – as a Brexiteer with modernising credentials – has emerged as a potential unity leadership contender in recent months.

She is sitting two seats away from the PM right now on the Government’s Commons front bench, as May defends her deal in the parliamentary crucible. Jeremy Corbyn is wearing his serious spectacles. Things are getting real.