Two British cabinet ministers have resigned within the past 24 hours, an upheaval not seen since at least 1982, according to the BBC politics desk.
Both resigned for the same reason: to protest Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to preserve some of the benefits of EU membership for Britain in a post-Brexit world. That plan is not a very realistic or workable plan. But that’s not why the two ministers have resigned. They have resigned in protest that the plan is not fantastical enough, that it does not rely enough on fairy dust and magic wishes. Ominously, something like half the British Conservative party agrees with the departing ministers.
Since the June 2016 referendum on a British exit from the European Union, the winners have bumped into a sequence of practical problems to which they can offer no credible solutions. As time dribbles away, the British government has backed into ever-greater concessions to the European Union point of view—without coming any closer to a finished agreement by the deadline of March 29, 2019.
This past weekend, May convened a meeting at her country home, Chequers, to propose to her cabinet a draft basis for negotiations with the European Union. The plan proposed what has been known as “soft Brexit”: Britain would seek to exit the Union—and end the free movement of people from the EU into Britain—while effectively remaining within the EU Customs Union. It’s not at all certain that such an outcome could be reached. The document presumes great negotiating leverage on the British side, when at the moment Britain looks to need this deal much, much more than the EU does.