The minister with responsibility for the nuclear industry has quit the government over last night’s (25 March) vote on giving the House of Commons more control over the EU withdrawal process.
Richard Harrington, who has been a junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) since the June 2017 general election, announced last night that he has resigned from the government.
Harrington wrote to prime minister Theresa May to inform her that he has left his post of parliamentary under-secretary at BEIS so that he could back plans for the Commons to hold indicative votes on the UK’s Brexit options.
Under this plan, MPs will conduct a series of votes this week to determine the level of support within parliament for various EU withdrawal arrangements.
In his letter to the prime minister, Harrington warned May that that she is “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods” of the British public by maintaining the option of a “no deal” Brexit if parliament continues to reject the withdrawal deal she has agreed with the EU.
The Watford MP branded “no deal” as a “giant economic experiment” which commands the support of a “small minority” among economists, the Conservative party and the public at large.
He told May that it would take five to ten years for the economy to recover from the ramifications of leaving without a deal.
Harrington’s responsibilities covered the wider energy portfolio when he was initially appointed to the BEIS ministerial team. He later retained the nuclear industry when his brief subsequently changed to focus on broader business issues.
As nuclear minister, Harrington oversaw the passage of the legislation that will establish the UK’s new nuclear safeguarding arrangements that must be in place in the event of a no deal withdrawal from the EU.
Harrington’s resignation follows an announcement yesterday by the European Commission that it has completed its “no-deal” preparations, which could come into effect as soon as 12 April if the UK parliament fails to back May’s withdrawal agreement.
These include contingency measures that ensure that a “no-deal” scenario does not affect the smooth functioning of the EU Emissions Trading System.
Last month Harrington revealed that the government’s energy white paper will be published in the “early summer”.