Outgoing Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has warned MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit not to miss another “golden opportunity” to vote for a deal.
The MSP, who oversaw a resurgence in the Tories’ performance during her eight years as the head of the party in Scotland, confirmed her decision to quit her role on Thursday.
In a resignation letter, Ms Davidson – who was a leading Remain supporter during the 2016 EU referendum campaign and has often been at odds with Boris Johnson – noted the “conflict I have felt over Brexit”.
But she also said she wanted to concentrate her time on her young family, having become a mother in October last year.
Ms Davidson’s resignation, which is being lamented by many Conservatives, comes in the wake of the prime minister’s decision to suspend parliament for up to five weeks in the run-up to the Brexit deadline on 31 October.
Amid widespread anger, Mr Johnson has been accused of attempting to sideline parliament in order to push through his Brexit plans, which could include a no-deal departure from the EU.
But, Ms Davidson suggested she was supportive of the plan to prorogue parliament and bring forward a new Queen’s Speech – if it meant a withdrawal agreement could once again be brought before the House of Commons.
Noting ex-prime minister Theresa May’s repeated failure to get her Brexit deal passed by MPs, Ms Davidson said following her resignation speech: “We had three golden opportunities to support a deal.
“The people right now who are saying they would do anything to avoid no deal had a goal gaping in front of them three times and they hit the ball over the bar.”
She dismissed “elaborate plans” by MPs opposed to no deal to collapse the government and install a senior MP – such as Labour’s Harriet Harman or ex-Tory minister Ken Clarke – as a caretaker prime minister.
“The simplest way to avoid no deal is to vote for a deal,” she said.
“I’ve never served in the House of Commons, I’m not an aficionado of Erskine May, but my understanding is you can’t bring back legislation that’s already been voted down.
“So, if it requires a new Queen’s Speech to bring back a deal, what I would urge is – to colleagues who want to avoid no deal – vote for a deal.
“You’ve had three opportunities, you blew every one of them. Don’t blow a fourth.
“I know the prime minister is seeking to get a deal, I’ve had long conversations with him on this point and I believe him when he says he’s seeking to get a deal.
“And, please – for those people who are trying to avoid no deal – make it clear, make it clear now that if a deal comes back to the House of Commons, you will vote for it.
“And let the EU hear you say you will vote for it so that there is a reason for them to reopen negotiations.”
Asked if she had a message for Mr Johnson, Ms Davidson told the prime minister: “Get us a deal.”
And to MPs, she added: “If the prime minister brings a deal back to the House of Commons, as I know he is trying to do, for God’s sake get behind it and this time – at the fourth time of asking – vote for it.”
In her resignation letter, Ms Davidson wrote: “While I have not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit, I have attempted to chart a course for our party which recognises and respects the referendum result, while seeking to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks for key Scottish businesses and sectors.”
Highlighting the impact on her life of the arrival of her baby son Finn, she added: “I fear that having tried to be a good leader over the years, I have proved a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend.
“The party and my work has always come first, often at the expense of commitments to loved ones.
“The arrival of my son means I now make a different choice.”
Ms Davidson is credited with the Conservatives’ comeback in Scotland, culminating at the 2017 general election when they won 13 seats to help Mrs May cling to power.
Mrs May said she was “sorry” to see Ms Davidson resign, adding: “Thank you for all you’ve done for our party and our Union over the last eight years, and enjoy your well-deserved family time with Jen and Finn.”
Mr Johnson said Ms Davidson had been “instrumental in the revival of our electoral fortunes in Scotland”.
“She should take immeasurable pride in the pivotal role she played during the Scottish independence referendum campaign, where her passionate support for our Union was crucial to the result,” he added.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky News: “Ruth and I obviously have many deep political disagreements but I wish her well for the future.
“I don’t think anyone is going to grudge her the more time she wants with her young son, and for someone like me I can well understand that in her position that’s a decision she feels she has to take.
“She leaves office today with my very best wishes and the best wishes of the SNP.”
Ms Davidson’s was not the only resignation on Thursday, with Lord Young of Cookham, a whip and government spokesperson for the Cabinet Office in the House of Lords, also quitting.
The Conservative peer, who has held a government role under the last five Tory prime ministers, said he “cannot continue to serve” Mr Johnson after his suspension of parliament.
He said the decision to seek a prorogation “risks undermining the fundamental role of parliament at a critical time in our history, and reinforces the view that the government may not have the confidence of the House for its Brexit policy”.