LONDON(TIP): Two Indian-origin Ministers on Thursday, November 15 resigned their positions in protest at the draft withdrawal agreement passed by the British Cabinet, while a Pakistani-origin politician resigned from his role as trade envoy to Pakistan over the government’s approach to offering asylum to Asia Bibi as well as the Brexit deal.
Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland and Suella Braverman, a Minister within the Ministry for Exiting the EU, both tendered their resignations to the Prime Minister in letters made public on Thursday morning, joining more senior figures, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.
Sri Lankan-origin Ranil Jayawardena also stepped down as a Minister. Rehman Chishti said he was stepping down as the Conservative Party’s vice chairman and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Pakistan.
Mr. Vara became the first Minister to tender his resignation following the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. In his letter, he said that he could not support an agreement that left Britain in a “half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.”
“There is every possibility that the U.K.-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,” he warned.
Pointing to Northern Ireland, he warned that it would be subject to a different relationship with the EU with the rest of U.K., threatening the economic and constitutional integrity of the U.K. While Mr. Vara had supported the Remain campaign in the run up to the referendum, he supported the leadership bid of Brexiteer Michael Gove in his party leadership campaign in 2016 following the resignation of David Cameron.
“The proposed Northern Ireland Backstop is not Brexit,” insisted Ms. Braverman in her resignation letter. “It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU.”
Ms. Braverman was an influential campaigner to leave the EU, chairing the European Research Group, which has been campaigning for a “hard” Brexit, until she joined the government earlier this year.
Mr. Chishti also expressed his disagreement with the withdrawal agreement and his disagreement with the “lack of leadership shown by the U.K. government” over the Asia Bibi case. “What I found shocking is that this British government is failing to put into practice the core values that our country stands for; religious freedom, justice, morally doing the right thing… the government should not wait to see if another country offers sanctuary, we should have had the conviction to lead on this matter and offer sanctuary ourselves straight away,” he wrote in his letter.
The resignations further reduce the presence of Indian-origin Ministers in the U.K. government, following the high-profile resignation of Priti Patel last year. Rishi Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys’ Narayana Murthy, remains a Minister within the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as does Alok Sharma, Britain’s Minister for Employment.