Raab named new Brexit minister hours after Davis’ shock resignation shook UK government
Young and relatively inexperienced minister will now take over crucial negotiations with EU over how Britain will leave the bloc
Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday chose 44-year-old Eurosceptic junior minister for housing Dominic Raab to be Britain’s new Brexit minister, hours after his predecessor David Davis resigned.
“The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Dominic Raab MP as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union,” May’s Downing Street office said in a statement.
May faced a crisis in her cabinet after Davis and one of his deputies resigned over a plan to retain strong economic ties to the EU even after leaving the bloc.
There was speculation further resignations by Brexit hardliners could threaten May’s leadership, after junior minister Steve Baker followed Davis out the door.
Many Eurosceptics have expressed anger over the agreed negotiating stance, calling it a betrayal of her promise for a clean break with the bloc. But by appointing former Brexit campaigner Raab, May might hope to quell some of that anger.
Raab, 44, is relatively inexperienced and was brought into the cabinet in a January reshuffle as a young up-and-coming Tory with leadership ambitions.
Asked whether the sudden departure of London’s lead negotiator was a problem, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters: “Not for us. We’re here to work.”
The outgoing Brexit ministry denied that junior minister Suella Braverman also quit, and Davis himself said it would be “wrong” for his departure to create a full-fledged rebellion.
“I wouldn’t be encouraging people to do that,” he told the BBC, adding that “of course” May would survive.
Even ministers who want a clean break with Brussels agreed to the plan, finally giving May a proposal to take to the EU in the hope of agreeing a deal before Brexit in March 2019.
But the truce did not last long, and Davis quit late on Sunday with a scathing letter to May.
“The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one,” he said.
Speaking to the BBC, the long-time Eurosceptic said he hoped his resignation would put pressure on May to make a stronger stand against the EU.
“It seems to me we’re giving too much away too easily and that’s a dangerous strategy,” he said.
In his letter, Davis said the deal agreed by the cabinet last week would “make the supposed control by parliament illusory rather than real”.
He was particularly critical of the plan for a “common rule book” to allow free trade in goods, saying this “hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU”.
May replied in a letter rejecting “your characterisation of the policy we agreed”, saying it would “undoubtedly mean the returning of powers from Brussels to the United Kingdom”.
Davis was appointed two years ago to the Brexit minister role after Britain voted to leave the bloc in a referendum.
He became the public face of Brexit, leading the British delegation in talks with Brussels, although his role had been increasingly overshadowed in recent months as May and her aides took a bigger role.
Brexit hardliners have welcomed Davis’s move, fuelling turmoil within the party and raising the prospect of a potential leadership battle.
Andrea Jenkyns, who quit as a ministerial aide earlier this year to fight for Brexit, urged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU, to follow suit, tweeting: “Time for true #Brexiteers to make it happen.”
Ian Lavery, chairman of the main opposition Labour Party, said: “This is absolute chaos and Theresa May has no authority left.”
Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg