UK Works and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd quit on Saturday, plunging the new government of Boris Johnson into further disarray as sharp disagreements about his handling of Brexit and strong-arm punishment for disloyal Conservatives.
“I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled,” Rudd said in a tweet that included her resignation letter to Johnson.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Rudd said she planned to fight the next election as an “independent Conservative” and away from her current seat of Hastings & Rye, on the southern coast, where she has a majority of just 346.
The resignation caps a miserable week for Johnson, with a string of losses in Parliament over his Brexit strategy, compounded by the resignation of his own brother from the government, exacerbated by the loss of his majority in the House of Commons and the removal of almost two dozen party members who defied him on votes.
In addition to Rudd, the Times said at least one other minister is considering whether to resign.
Rudd returned to the cabinet under former premier Theresa May in November, seven months after quitting as home secretary over criticism for her department’s treatment of Caribbean migrants who arrived after World War II to take up jobs during a labour shortage. She was one of May’s loyal lieutenants, and the policies that triggered the outrage were adopted when May held the post.
“I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective,” Rudd said in her latest resignation letter. “The government is spending a lot of energy to prepare for no-deal but I have not seen the same level of intensity go into our talks with the European Union who have asked us to present alternative arrangement to the Irish backstop.”
Her departure came hours after three opposition politicians in her constituency signed a letter challenging her stance on Brexit and why she supported Johnson’s suspension of Parliament. In June, Rudd had referred to reports that Johnson was planning to prorogue Parliament as “outrageous.”
Rudd was a key pro-European Union voice who provided a counterpoint to pro-Brexit heavyweights, such as Johnson when he was in the cabinet and Michael Gove, now a senior aide to the primer. She was due to attend a key meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Wednesday to weigh the options for the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.