Two Indian-origin ministers have resigned their positions in protest at the draft withdrawal agreement passed by the British Cabinet.
Shailesh Vara, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, and Suella Braverman, a junior minister within the Ministry for Exiting the EU, tendered their resignations to the Prime Minister in letters made public on Thursday. They join more senior figures, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. Sri Lankan-origin Ranil Jayawardena also stepped down as a Minister. Vara became the first minister to tender his resignation following the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, after which Prime Minister Theresa May said she had gained Cabinet backing on the terms of the deal.
In his letter, Vara said that he could not support an agreement that left Britain in a “half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.
“There is every possibility that the UK-EU trade deal that we seek will take years to conclude. We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he warned.
Pointing to Northern Ireland, he warned that it would be subject to a different relationship with the EU, threatening the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK. While Vara had supported the ‘Remain Campaign’ in the run up to the referendum, he had also backed the party leadership bid of Brexiteer Michael Gove in 2016 following the resignation of David Cameron.
In her resignation letter, Braverman insisted that “The proposed Northern Ireland Backstop is not Brexit.”
“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU.” Braverman was an influential campaigner to leave the EU, chairing the European Research Group, which has been campaigning for a “hard” Brexit, until she joined the government earlier this year.
The resignations further reduce the presence of Indian-origin ministers in the UK government, following the high-profile resignation of Priti Patel last year.
Rishi Sunak, son-in-law of Infosys’ N R Narayana Murthy, remains a minister within the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government as does Alok Sharma, Britain’s Minister for employment.