July 22, 2019
FCO minister critical of Johnson in Darroch affair joins Hammond and Gauke in resigning in protest
Alan Duncan quits as minister before Boris Johnson arrival at No 10
Alan Duncan has resigned as a Foreign Office minister ahead of the expected arrival of Boris Johnson at Downing Street, the latest in a string of ministers to pre-emptively quit their jobs in protest at his likely direction as prime minister.
The departure of Duncan followed the announcements on Sunday by Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and David Gauke, the justice secretary, that they will quit on Wednesday, just before Johnson formally becomes prime minister.
Other cabinet ministers have been tipped to follow, including Rory Stewart, the international development secretary who was also in the Tory leadership race. Duncan’s decision is arguably even less of a surprise given his criticisms of Johnson, with whom he spent two years working at the Foreign Office.
In a letter to Theresa May, which Duncan tweeted a photo of, the MP said he was resigning ahead of the changeover of PM “in order to be free to express my views in advance of you relinquishing office”.
In the letter, Duncan hailed the work of the Foreign Office, adding: “It is tragic that just when we could have been the dominant intellectual and political force throughout Europe, and beyond, we have had to spend every working day beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.”
The most recent falling out between Duncan and Johnson came earlier this month amid a row over Sir Kim Darroch, the UK ambassador to Washington.
When Johnson pointedly refused to back Darroch after the ambassador was condemned by Donald Trump over leaked UK diplomatic cables critical of the White House, after which Darroch resigned, Duncan accused Johnson of throwing the envoy “under the bus”.
Adding to the awkwardness, the next day Duncan, whose Foreign Office brief covers the Americas, was tasked to answer an urgent Labour question in the Commons on Johnson’s role in the Darroch affair. A series of Tory MPs castigated the likely next prime minister, with Duncan indicating he agreed with them.
On Sunday, Hammond announced his departure on live TV. Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show if he expected to be sacked if Johnson took over, Hammond said: “No, I’m sure I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point. Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on 31 October and that’s not something that I could ever sign up to.”
Earlier, Gauke told the Sunday Times he would not be able to serve under Johnson if he pursued a no-deal Brexit: “Given that I’ve been in the cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign.”
Such resignations have not gone down well with every Tory MP. The former minister Greg Hands tweeted: “In my view, pre-emptive ministerial resignations (if reports are true) in case your own democratically elected party leader is not to your liking are absurd.
“And I say that as a committed Jeremy Hunt supporter. Such moves make a Corbyn government one step more likely.”
While expected, the departure of Duncan will deprive the Foreign Office of an experienced and generally well-liked minister, who was in the role throughout Theresa May’s prime ministership.
The MP for Rutland and Melton since 1992, Duncan has been on the Conservative frontbench for more than 20 years, taking on shadow cabinet briefs including transport as well as trade and industry.
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