There comes a point in every party – as dawn breaks, and the hangovers are kicking in – when the last revellers realise that anyone still on the premises risks being stuck with the job of clearing up the mess. Standing now in the rancid-smelling Brexit kitchen, Dominic Raab has realised that he does not want to be that person – and he’s out. Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary, has followed him through the door.
Every resignation is damaging to Theresa May, but Raab’s is doubly so. First, it means that there is now no Brexit true believer prepared to take an author’s credit on the deal that is about to come before parliament. Yes, there are still a few class-of-2016 leavers in cabinet – Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom and others – but they have just been cheerleaders, and pretty muted ones at that. It isn’t clear at the time of writing how long they will stick around, offering a bit of tepid golf applause at the margins. But Raab was in a different category. He was in the room where Brexit happened. Notionally, at least, this was his deal. (In reality, it was all hammered out by officials in direct communication with the prime minister, which was a slow-burn injury to the Brexit secretary’s pride.)
These resignations confirm a fundamental structural problem with the whole leave prospectus: it was a fantasy, and as such incompatible with the mundane fulfilment of ministerial responsibility. Raab has come to the same conclusion that David Davis and Boris Johnson reached earlier in the year: it is easier to be on the team that accuses the prime minister of failing to deliver majestic herds of unicorns than it is to be stuck with a portfolio that requires expertise in unicorn-breeding.
Given that the plan these inept dipshits supported has as possible results 1)a terrible agreement for the country reached with a negotiating partner that holds all the cards, or 2)a no-deal Brexit that would be even more catastrophic, it’s understandable that they don’t want to be around to take responsibility when the magic ponies fail to materialize. Cowardly and disgraceful and reprehensible, but understandable.