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Boris Johnson And David Davis, Britain's Brexit Minister, Resign


British Prime Minister Theresa May confronted Parliament today. She's trying to make the case for her plan for the U.K.'s exit from the European Union.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: This is the Brexit that is in our national interest. It is the Brexit that will deliver on the democratic decision of the British people. It is the right Brexit deal for Britain. And I commend this statement to the house.


KING: But May's Cabinet is in turmoil. Two key members of the British government are leaving. Just over an hour ago, the government announced that Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is departing. And on Sunday, David Davis resigned. He was the minister leading May's Brexit team. All of this is happening just days after May announced her plan for Brexit. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in London. She's with us now. Hi, Ofeibea.


KING: So what is the case that Prime Minister May is trying to make to Parliament?

QUIST-ARCTON: That hard, soft, on the edge, whatever it is, this is going to be a good Brexit for Britain negotiated with the European Union. But you heard the jeers there - and, you know, jeers from her Conservative Party colleagues as well as from the opposition. So there is huge pressure on Theresa May not only because of Brexit but now, of course, because of her leadership of her governing party. People are saying, if you can't put your own house in order, how can you possibly put Britain's house in order in front of the European Union?

KING: Well, and now with these two resignations of key members of her cabinet, how much of a problem are they for Theresa May?

QUIST-ARCTON: Huge problem. These are hard hitters who have left. You have first David Davis, her Brexit secretary, who said he couldn't see himself as, quote, "a reluctant conscript." You know, he clearly disagrees with Theresa May's plan for leaving the European Union. He has doubts about May's Brexit strategy. He accuses the prime minister of giving too much too easily to Europe. And he says it had simply become untenable for him to try to continue defending the Prime Minister's flawed choices and Brexit negotiation policy. Then you have Boris Johnson, the outgoing secretary of state who - the outgoing foreign secretary who has now announced his resignation. Apparently over the weekend, after the negotiations with the cabinet on Friday, he used not very polite English - colloquial term - the turd. And you know what that is...

KING: Yes.

QUIST-ARCTON: ...What plops in the john. And that's what he called Theresa May's plan. So she has really key members of her cabinet bailing out. And many people ask is this going to be an avalanche. Is this the beginning of the hemorrhage? Theresa May is in trouble.

KING: Does Theresa May appear to have a plan to try to get a coalition behind her to support what she wants?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, she - as we heard at the beginning of this report, she addressed Parliament. And it may be that she is going to have to go - not just to the Conservatives, her party, but also to Labour Members of Parliament to try and get her Brexit policy through. But it's going to be tough. It's going to be tough. And then, of course, you have Europe looking at this.

KING: Yeah.

QUIST-ARCTON: Europe's looking at this. And people are saying, look; this is all grist for the mill of Europe and not to Britain. Theresa May is failing us.

KING: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in London. Thanks, Ofeibea.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure - lots going on here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.