Boris Johnson’s woes deepen with further early morning resignations as Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis quits

Boris Johnson has faced further resignations this morning as he faces calls from allies to quit.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has resigned from the Cabinet, telling the Prime Minister that Government requires “honesty, integrity and mutual respect”.

Treasury minister Helen Whately was also one of those to resign this morning, telling Boris Johnson there “are only so many times you can apologise and move on”.

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Security minister Damian Hinds has also resigned, saying: “It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.
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George Freeman confirmed he had resigned from his post as science minister.

Pensions minister Guy Opperman has also resigned, the fourth this morning alone, telling Boris Johnson “recent events have shown clearly that the Government simply cannot function with you in charge”.

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Brandon Lewis told the Prime Minister in a resignation letter that he had “given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt”.

“I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately,” the Northern Ireland Secretary told Boris Johnson in his resignation letter.

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“We are, however, now past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now. It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better.”

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He told the Prime Minister that he was submitting his resignation with “regret”, but said that a divided Conservative party cannot win elections.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, who took over the role in early 2020, told Boris Johnson that the Government had taken “huge strides to level up the economy of Northern Ireland and have not shied away from taking other difficult decisions; confronting the practical issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, advocating for the reproductive rights of women and championing the benefits of integrated education for all”.

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Mr Lewis continued: “A decision to leave Government is never taken lightly, particularly at such a critical time for Northern Ireland. I have taken a lot of time to consider this decision, having outlined my position to you at length last night.

Mr Lewis told the Prime Minister that in recent months, the Conservative Party has been “relentlessly on the defensive, consumed by introspection and in-fighting”.

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“A divided Party cannot win elections. It cannot deliver for those who trusted us with their votes for the first time in 2019.

Ms Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said: “With sincere regret I am resigning from HM Government.

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“I stood for Parliament because I want to make our country a better place.”

“Your vision for our country and your mission to level-up has inspired and galvanised people,” she added.

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“As Exchequer Secretary I have seen this in practice and been proud to play a part. I have argued that you should continue as Prime Minister many times in recent months, but there are only so many times you can apologise and move on. That point has been reached.”

Pensions minister and Hexam MP Guy Opperman wrote on Twitter: “I resign with great regret, given there are serious ongoing issues that need addressing ranging from cost of living support, to legislation, & parliamentary debates.

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“It should not take the resignation of 50 colleagues, but sadly the PM has left us no choice. He needs to resign.”

In his letter to the PM, he added: “I have given you ample opportunity to show real change. Sadly, recent events have shown clearly that the Government simply cannot function with you in charge. In good faith and for the good of the country, I must ask you to stand down. No one individual, however successful in the past, is bigger than the party, or this great country.”

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Late last night Conservative MP Gareth Davies has quit as parliamentary private secretary to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Science minister George Freeman said he no longer had confidence in Boris Johnson, saying “enough is enough”.

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In a letter, he said: “It is with huge regret that I am writing to let you know that I no longer have confidence in your leadership of our country, Government or party, and am writing formally to Sir Graham Brady to register my support for a change of Conservative Party leadership.

“I do this with a very heavy heart. Our country is facing a series of crises and needs strong leadership, and needs ministers focused on delivering strong and effective government to deliver the priorities for which we won a massive majority only 30 months ago.

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“I backed you then and since because of your commitment to make Brexit an inspiring moment of national renewal – of our economy, Parliamentary sovereignty and our place in the world – in the One Nation Conservative tradition on which you stood.”

The letter, which he signed “Minister for Science, Research and Innovation”, went on: “But I’m afraid the culmination of your lack of transparency and candour with Parliament (and willingness to ask your ministers to mislead Parliament), your removal of key pillars of the Ministerial code, your handling of your appointment of a deputy chief whip who it turns out you knew had a history of sexual abuse allegations, is too much. This is seriously damaging public trust and respect for government, democracy and the law, and this great party’s long tradition as the party of standards, character, conduct, integrity and duty to office and country before partisan self-interest.

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“Your leadership, the chaos in No10, breakdown of Cabinet collective responsibility and collapse of public confidence in government represents a constitutional crisis. It is also now seriously undermining our authority in key negotiations on the world stage at a time of urgent international crises.”

Mr Freeman is understood to have cancelled a planned visit to Liverpool on Thursday linked to an announcement on funding for flu pandemic research.

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The Grantham and Stamford MP tweeted: “It is with great regret that I have informed the whips office of my resignation as a PPS at the Department of Health and Social Care. It has been a privilege to serve in the role and not a decision I have taken lightly.”

Technology minister Chris Philp, in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, told him that the events of the past few weeks meant he could not serve in Government any more.

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He told Boris Johnson that it had been a “privilege to serve the people of the United Kingdom”.

Referencing the Online Safety Bill, currently moving through parliament, Mr Philp said: “If the Government requires any practical assistance in getting the Bill through Commons Report Stage given the current scarcity of ministers, I would be happy to provide it.”

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He told the Prime Minister that “integrity, honesty and trust in politics” was important.

“Given events over the past few weeks and months I therefore think that you should resign as Prime Minister and it follows that I cannot serve in your Government any longer.”