Dominic Raab has resigned as Brexit Secretary following yesterday’s cabinet meeting. This is a bigger blow to Theresa May and her hopes of passing a Brexit deal than the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson after Chequers. It now seems almost impossible that this deal can pass the Commons without wholesale Labour support. Indeed, that Raab listed Northern Ireland’s separate treatment as one of his reasons for quitting shows how unlikely it is that the DUP can be persuaded to back this deal. Confirming that, Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP, immediately praised Raab for ‘standing up for the Union’.
So, what happens now? Well, Raab’s resignation makes it more likely both that other cabinet ministers follow and that the 48 letters calling for a no confidence vote go in. It is still much more likely that May will win any confidence vote. But the fact this deal can now only be passed with a huge number of Labour votes will give a lot of Tory MPs pause.
In recent weeks, Raab has been getting increasingly frustrated. He feels that he hasn’t been allowed to negotiate, that he could have got a better deal on the backstop if he had been allowed to pursue his chosen path.
One of the other crucial things that separates Raab from the other Brexit swing votes in the cabinet — Michael Gove, Geoffrey Cox and Jeremy Hunt — is that Raab is more bullish about no deal planning. He thinks that the UK can do a significant amount to mitigate the impact of no deal. He has also told colleagues that he thinks some sensible bare bones agreements will be made to prevent the complete collapse of relations between the UK and the EU.
May’s style of government has again led to a Brexit Secretary feeling that they have been cut out of the loop on Brexit policy. In her handling of Raab, May has repeated the mistakes that she made with David Davis. This time the cost she’ll pay in terms of her ability to get her policy through will be higher.