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Chris Heaton-Harris
Chris Heaton-Harris
Image: House of Commons via PA Images

Junior minister in charge of Brexit no-deal planning resigns over Article 50 delays

Chris Heaton-Harris said that he believes that parliament should have honoured the 2016 referendum result.
Apr 3rd 2019, 4:40 PM 16,777 20

THE UK JUNIOR minister in charge of Brexit no-deal planning Chris Heaton-Harris has resigned. 

In his resignation letter, the MP said that he believes that parliament should have honoured the 2016 referendum result and that the UK should have left the EU on 29 March, as planned. 

He said he could not support any further extension to Article 50. 

“Indeed every time we seek an extension to this process we diminish faith in our political system and the good people, from all political parties, who serve within it,” Heaton-Harris wrote. 

I simply cannot support any further extension to Article 50 and this obviously means I cannot stay in government. 

Speaking yesterday after a marathon day of talks with her Cabinet colleagues, Theresa May said she wanted an extension to the Brexit deadline in order to agree a deal. 

May said she would seek talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to facilitate this and there were suggestions that May could pursue a softer Brexit, such as the inclusion of a customs union arrangement, as part of these talks.

During last night’s statement in Downing Street, May said that although she believed the UK could “make a success” of no-deal in the long run, leaving with a deal would be preferable.

In his resignation letter, Heaton-Harris said that while he would have preferred to leave the EU with May’s deal, he believes the UK “would have swiftly overcome any immediate issues of leaving without a deal and gone on to thrive”. 

“It has been a privilege to work with some quite brilliant civil servants in my Department and across your government. They have moved mountains to prepare our country for leaving the European Union without a negotiated deal,” Heaton-Harris wrote. 

“Unfortunately, I do not believe the briefings you have received on these matters recently have received on these matters recently have reflected all they have achieved or the preparations out European partners have made,” he wrote. 

However, I completely understand you do not want to leave the European Union without a negotiated deal and that obviously makes my job in government irrelevant. 

Other resignation

Earlier today, assistant government whip Nigel Adams also announced his resignation. 

“I believe we have two great challenges. We must deliver the Brexit that the people voted for. And we must prevent the calamity of a Corbyn government. Sadly, I fear that we are now at risk of simultaneously failing in both,” Adams wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister.

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“At Cabinet yesterday, there was an opportunity to get onto the front foot for once. However, by legitimising and turning to Jeremy Corbyn, to assist you at this crucial stage, rather than being bold, is grave error,” he said.

A front page story in today’s Daily Telegraph reported that May was “ignoring the will of her Cabinet” by seeking Corbyn’s help instead of pursuing no deal and that “a full-scale Tory rebellion” could follow.

May’s director of communications denied the story this morning.

With reporting by Rónán Duffy 

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