Former UK Brexit Minister David Davis, who resigned on Sunday, told the BBC 4 broadcaster on Monday that Theresa May was a good prime minister, capable of surviving his resignation.
In his resignation letter, Davis cited disagreement with May’s plan for exiting the European Union as the reason for stepping down.
“Yes, of course [she can survive this],” Davis said when asked whether the prime minister could survive the crisis caused by his resignation.
The former Brexit minister said he liked May and considered her “a good prime minister.”
Davis added he would not run for the leadership of the Conservative party.
In a letter sent to May in the early hours of Monday, Davis said he was not willing to be “a reluctant conscript” to her negotiating stance, which would see Britain mirror EU rules and regulations.
May replied to his letter to say she did not agree “with your characterisation of the policy we agreed at cabinet on Friday”. She thanked him for his work.
In a move that could fire up eurosceptics in May’s Conservative Party, a government source said that Steve Baker, a minister who worked for Davis, had also resigned. For many Brexit campaigners, Baker’s role in government gave them faith in the process.
Another minister from the Brexit department, Suella Braverman, was also reported by local media to have resigned, although there was no official confirmation and she did not respond to a request for comment.
After the hours-long meeting at Chequers, May seemed to have persuaded the most vocal Brexit campaigners in the cabinet, including Davis, to back her plan to press for “a free trade area for goods” with the EU and maintain close trade ties.
It won the backing of one other high-profile Brexit campaigner.
Michael Gove, May’s environment minister, said on Sunday that while the agreed negotiating stance was not perfect, he believed it delivered on handing back control to Britain.
The so-called peace deal raised hopes that Britain could finally move on with all-but-stalled talks with the EU, which has yet to give a definitive comment on whether they will accept May’s plan.
But Davis had expressed his unease over a compromise plan right up until the eve of the meeting, writing a letter to May describing her proposal to ease trade and give Britain more freedom to set tariffs as “unworkable”.
Davis has form on resigning if he disagrees with his party.
In 2008, when the Conservatives were not in government, Davis quit as a member of parliament to raise the profile of a debate over what saw as the erosion of civil liberties.
Shortly afterwards he stood as the Conservative candidate and was re-elected.
Other Brexit-supporting Conservative lawmakers have criticized the Chequers “peace deal”, saying that May’s plans offered a Brexit in name only, a betrayal of what they saw as her promise for a clean break with the EU.
Their complaints raise a question mark over whether May can win backing in parliament for her plans if any deal with the EU is agreed later this year, and some suggest several of them could try to trigger a leadership contest against her.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a group of Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party, said Davis’ resignation proved that their concerns were well-founded and signaled that he would not vote for May’s plan if it came to a vote in parliament.
“It is crucially important as it shows how well founded concerns over the Chequers conclusions are,” he told Reuters.
“If the Brexit Secretary could not support them they cannot genuinely be delivering Brexit.”