MINISTER of State for Northern Ireland Shailesh Vara has become the first MP to quit in protest of Prime Minister Theresa May's new Brexit deal.
The MP for North West Cambridgeshire shared an image of his resignation letter on Twitter this morning, claiming the PM's draft withdrawal agreement will "leave the UK in a half-way house".
He tweeted: "With much sadness and regret I have submitted my letter of resignation as a Northern Ireland Minister to the Prime Minister.
"A copy of my letter is attached. It has been a joy and privilege to serve in the Northern Ireland Office and I will always cherish the fondest memories."
Vara's letter of resignation warned that the 585-page draft deal – reluctantly agreed by a divided Cabinet after five hours last night – would keep the country in the "shackles of the EU".
With much sadness and regret I have submitted my letter of resignation as a Northern Ireland Minister to the Prime Minister. A copy of my letter is attached.
It has been a joy and privilege to serve in the Northern Ireland Office and I will always cherish the fondest memories. pic.twitter.com/SN8j4OwhYD
— Shailesh Vara MP (@ShaileshVara) 15 November 2018
It continues: "Given the past performance of the EU, 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. Worse, we will not be free to leave the Customs Arrangement unilaterally if we wish to do so.
"Northern Ireland in the meantime will be subject to a different relationship with the EU from the rest of the UK and while I agree there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK must be respected".
The letter adds: "We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown they do not have our best interests at heart.
"The people of the UK deserve better. This is why I cannot support this agreement."
Vara had held his ministerial post since July 2018 but did not sit in the Cabinet, where his former office is represented by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley.
Reports today suggest Cabinet ministers could also quit, including the eurosceptic Work and Pensions Secretary Esther MsVey – who was apparently "left in tears" after being "shouted down" when she objected to the deal during last night's meeting.
Theresa May's critics have claimed she could reach the 48 letters of no confidence needed to trigger a Tory leadership contest as soon as today.