Published: 09:23, 15 November 2018
| Updated: 18:43, 15 November 2018
High-profile ministers and a Kent MP have resigned joining a growing number of their colleagues shunning the Prime Minister's proposals for Britain's exit from the EU.
Less than 24 hours after Theresa May announced her cabinet had backed the plans, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who had only held the post since July, said he could not support the proposals and quit.
An hour later, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey also resigned - and now Conservative party vice chairman Rehman Chishti, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, has also resigned.
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Mr Chishti said the terms of the backstop amount to a "hybrid membership of the EU customs union and single market".
He added he was concerned the EU "would hold a veto over our ability to exit".
Mr Raab said he thinks the plans for Northern Ireland represent a very real threat to the integrity of the UK.
It comes as MPs begin to air their opinions on the Brexit deal, which was published for the first time last night.
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke tweeted: "In the referendum, people voted for change.
"Having reviewed Mrs May’s Brexit proposal, it’s clear this is more of the same.
"In fact it’s worse - because in the EU we have a say and we can leave. In this proposal we have no say and we can’t leave. It is Hotel California."
"This proposal also fails to honour the referendum mandate - we will not take back control of laws, money or trade. We would also pay £39bn with no clear sense of what we are getting in return."
He added: "I cannot support this proposal and if it comes to a vote in the House of Commons I will oppose it."
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately took a different tone.
She tweeted: "People knocking the proposed Brexit deal are overlooking the positives - a deal to leave (end free movement, end payments, end EU control) coupled with a zero tariff trade partnership where how much alignment we opt for determines level of border checks on goods."
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Here's the latest analysis from our political editor Paul Francis
Theresa May chose to come out fighting over her Brexit deal after suffering the loss of six ministers today - a rate of attrition that might have knocked out other politicians.
If ever there was a time to display her resilience, today was it.
Her room for manouevre was, in truth, pretty limited so she chose to push on, using a press conference to declare she wasn’t heading for the Brexit door and neither was her masterplan.
But there remains a sense that she has bought time rather than win over doubters.
What has been noticeable is the apparent reluctance of some Kent Conservative MPs to declare their hands.
One exception was the Dover MP Charlie Elphicke who made no bones about his frustration with the deal and announcing that he would not be able to support it.
He articulated reservations that many MPs have - namely that the UK is signing up to a deal that not only breaches manifesto commitments but ties the country to arrangements that cede power to the EU rather than restores them to the UK.
May has brought herself time but she cannot afford to push some of the thornier issues into the long grass.
She is right about one thing: people just want the government to get on with Brexit and sort it out.
Whether she will be the one to lead the government in those efforts is open to question.
The Prime Minister: "I do not judge harshly those of my colleagues who seek to do the same but who reach a different conclusion... they must do what they believe to be right, just as I do."
Theresa May vows to stay and fight on as Prime Minister despite several high-profile resignations
The latest analysis from our political editor Paul Francis
The list of Brexit casualties has increased with the departure of the Gillingham MP Rehman Chishti from a party political role as vice chairman of the party.
Like many MPs, he articulates unease that the deal represents a departure from what was in the Conservative manifesto in 2017.
The key sticking points are that the party had pledged that leaving the EU would mean no longer being in the Customs Union and the Single Market.
And any way you look at it, the draft deal fails to meet those commitments and in so doing, exposes MPs to the damaging charge that they are not delivering what they promised.
Worse, the deal actually ties the UK to the possibility that we could be a member of the Customs Union indefinitely and would have to request permission to leave.
That is a hard sell for anyone, let alone for politicians on the doorstep trying to sell their wares.
Michael Gove has reportedly been offered the job of Brexit Secretary, but says his price for doing it is to re-negotiate the agreement
Theresa May to hold press conference in Downing Street at 5pm
Here is Rehman Chishti's resignation letter
Conservative party vice chairman Rehman Chishti, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, has resigned over the Brexit deal.
The value of the pound has fallen 1.3% following the ministerial resignations this morning. It is down from £1.15 against the euro to around £1.13.
Canterbury's Labour MP Rosie Duffield says the draft Brexit agreement will be "catastrophic" for Kent
Our political editor Paul Francis on the latest on the Brexit deal crisis:
"The most significant development is that Jacob Rees-Mogg has officially sent a letter to the Whips asking for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Whether others are preparing to follow suit remains to be seen and I am not sure at this point if it'll necessarily trigger more letters but a possible challenge to Theresa May is probably edging closer.
Some have suggested events are similar to when Margaret Thatcher was ousted. It also has echoes of the leadership challenge to John Major in 1995. Could we be looking at a new party leader? Possibly but you have to ask who would want the job? Rees-Mogg says that other letters will go in but not necessarily today.
The crisis will be an interesting backdrop to a conference onSaturday being organised by Kent Conservatives and featuring some of the county's MPs and a sprinkling of ministers - so far, none on the invite list have resigned. As to the views of the county's MPs on the Brexit crisis, we've seen an intervention by Gravesham MP Adam Holloway unhelpfully asking if the deal was "disobeying the instructions of my constituents in Gravesham?" Unsurprisingly, the PM did not agree."
The Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, seen as a possible future leader, has been gently chided by some on Twitter after posting a tweet on nuisance calls from energy companies but nothing on his views on the Brexit deal.
Christopher Snelling from the Freight Transport Association reacts to Brexit deal.
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately questions the Prime Minister in the Commons.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is understood to have submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Freight Transport Association's head of European policy Pauline Bastidon says the group supports the Brexit deal and wants MPs to back it.
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway has asked Theresa May a question in the House of Commons.
He said: "Does the Prime Minister feel she's listened to her officials whilst sidelining her Brexit secretaries and is she now disobeying the instructions of my constituents in Gravesham?"
The PM replied: "I have to say to my honourable gentleman the answer to both questions is no.
"I have worked with my Brexit secretaries and obviously officials, the negotiating team throughout this process and I believe the deal we're proposing does deliver on the instruction of the British people."
Labour MEP for the South East, John Howarth, is not impressed with the draft agreement.
Richard Ashworth, a South East MEP who was expelled from the Conservative party last month, said the government should now agree to hold a referendum on the deal.
He said: “The cabinet is hopelessly divided and so is the country; history shows that when that is the case, the only option is to go to the people, so I am a reluctant supporter of a second referendum.”
But he said there was nothing to be gained from changing leader. “Frankly, there is nothing to be gained from her resigning.”
“We need to look at the reality of the world: it is this deal; a WTO deal or no deal at all.”
The MEP, a Europhile, had the Conservative whip removed last year and was expelled from the party in October after he broke ranks with the party over a vote of censure of the Hungarian leader Viktor Orban.
In a bid at bringing some (debatable) humour to this morning's activity, Green MEP for the South East, Keith Taylor,said: "It's quite something that the Conservatives' Brexit fudge has already sparked *insert up-to-date number here* Cabinet resignations, including the Minister responsible for negotiating it.
"Theresa May is finally getting her just desserts for two years of empty rhetoric, fantasy and cakeism, and the dish of the day is government crumble.
"In the face of such an omnishambles and with the statistical certainty that May will not get her deal through the Commons, it is time to face the reality that it is the people that must be trusted to find a way through this mess. Greens are committed to the People's Vote and giving the people the final say on this deal—with remaining in the EU an option on the ballot."
In response to a question from Kenneth Clarke, the Prime Minister says the British people wanted an end to free movement and said the customs union does not allow the UK to have an independent free-trade policy.
PM: "We will be creating a free trade area between the UK and the EU."
The Prime Minister says 500 pages of legal text is not an "ill-defined withdrawal agreement".
Corby says the Brexit Secretary (who resigned this morning) promised a "substantive" document "so when will that be with us". He added: "Parliament cannot accept this false choice between a bad deal and no deal."
JC: "By 2021, under the Prime Minister's plan we will either be in backstop or still in transition." He adds that after two years of negotiation all the Government has achieved is a "vague" document.
JC: "The backstop locks Britain into a deal it cannot leave without the approval of the EU."
JC: "There is no mention of the Prime Minister's favoured term "implementation period" in the document."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says the negotiations have been a "huge and damaging failure" and the deal does not meet the party's six tests.
PM: "We can risk no Brexit at all or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated."
PM: "I know it's been frustrating... but a good Brexit is possible. Once a final deal is agreed I will bring it to Parliament and I would ask MPs to consider the national interest when voting."
Britain will be free to strike trade deals with other countries around the world.
PM: "The Brexit talks are about acting in the national interest and that means making the right choices not the easy ones." She said there were some telling her to rip up the backstop but this would have been a "reckless course of action".
PM: "The EU has made a number of concessions."
Prime Minister: "I do not pretend this has been a comfortable process or that we or the EU are entirely happy."
MPs laugh as the Prime Minister says the deal will allow a "smooth and orderly" exit from the EU.
The Prime Minister is speaking in the House of Commons. She said President Juncker has written to the European Council to say there has been a decisive move in the Brexit negotiations.
The total number of resignations so far today is four. They are Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Brexit minister Suella Braverman and aide to education minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
It's all too much for Canterbury Labour MP Rosie Duffield.
Ester McVey has resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary
Dominic Raab's resignation letter.
More by this authorKentOnline reporter