Amber Rudd has resigned from the Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative whip in protest at Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit.
The Hastings and Rye MP said she was relinquishing the Tory whip after the prime minister sacked 21 rebels this week.
The secretary of state for work and pensions posted on Twitter: “I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative whip. I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled.
“I have spoken to the PM and my association chairman to explain. I remain committed to the one nation values that drew me into politics.”
Earlier this week, Johnson removed the whip from 21 Conservatives including two former chancellors and Winston Churchill’s grandson after they voted to give opposition MPs control of the order paper and start the process of blocking a no-deal Brexit.
In comments likely to reverberate across Westminster as it gears up for another tumultuous week, Rudd said she thought a no-deal Brexit was now the government’s main aim. The former home secretary was dogged by questions throughout the Tory leadership contest about whether she could serve in Johnson’s cabinet if he won the race, given that his strategy would involve keeping no-deal on the table during further negotiations with Brussels.
She accepted the offer of continuing in her job as work and pensions secretary when Johnson formed his Cabinet in July, but in her letter of resignation, she said that while she had accepted the need to keep no-deal as an option, said she “no longer believed leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective”.
In a forthright criticism of Johnson, she called his decision to sack the Tory rebels “an “assault on decency and democracy”.
David Gauke, the former secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor and one of the sacked Tory rebels, responded to the announcement on Twitter: “I’m sure this has not been an easy decision. But it is brave and principled and is all about putting the national interest first.” Former minister Damian Green tweeted: “This is desperately sad.”
Anna Soubry, a former Conservative and now leader of the Independent Group for Change, tweeted Rudd’s resignation letter alongside the words: “At last. respect.”
Ian Lavery MP, chair of the Labour party, said Rudd’s sudden resignation was a sign that “no one trusts” the PM. “The prime minister has run out of authority in record time and his Brexit plan has been exposed as a sham,” he said.
“No one trusts Boris Johnson. Not his cabinet, not his MPs, not even his own brother. After nine years of austerity, we need a Labour government that will invest in our communities and public services.”
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, tweeted: “Johnson government
falling apart. He’s being totally found out.”
Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party, was characteristically blunt: “Why did Boris give ministerial posts to all these Remainers in the first place? Confused thinking to say the least,” he tweeted.
Rudd has represented Hastings and Rye since 2010 and has one of the smallest majorities in the country, with only 346 votes separating her from her Labour rival in 2017.