Brandon Lewis has resigned as Northern Ireland secretary after Boris Johnson refused to stand down, despite calls from some of his own cabinet ministers.
The number of departures from the government payroll topped 50 this morning as groups of ministers called for the prime minister’s resignation.
This story has been updated. Click here to learn more about how Nadhim Zahawi tells Boris Johnson: “You must do the right thing and leave now.”
But a senior Number 10 source told Sky News that Johnson remains “absolutely defiant” and “has no intention of resigning”, adding that the prime minister wants to “keep fighting”.
Splits inside number 10 as a Tory source says a camp prepares resignation speech for prime minister | Live policy updates
In a tweet this morning, Lewis wrote: “Decent and responsible government is based on honesty, integrity and mutual respect. It is a matter of deep personal regret that I should leave government because I no longer believe those values are respected.” .
“I have submitted my letter of resignation to the prime minister.”
Lewis, who has been Northern Ireland secretary since 2020, was among the cabinet ministers who told Johnson on Wednesday that he should listen to the overwhelming opinion of the Conservative Party and resignSky News understands.
But his pleas were ignored and later that night the prime minister fired his former Brexit ally, Michael Gove. A Number 10 source said Johnson intended to continue the reshuffling of him today.
Treasury Secretary Helen Whately joined the rush of ministers who resigned this morning, telling the prime minister: “There are a limited number of times you can apologize and move on. It has reached that point.”
Read more: Johnson suffers more resignations than any prime minister in modern history
She was followed by Security Minister Damian Hinds, Science Minister George Freeman, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman and Technology Minister Chris Philp.
Freeman tweeted: “Enough is enough. This cannot go on.”
The mass rebellion began on Tuesday after Downing Street admitted PM knew of allegations of inappropriate behavior against disgraced former deputy chief Chris Pincher in 2019, but still named him in February.
Prior to the admission, government ministers had been dispatched to defend Johnson on the airwaves and were told to say their boss was unaware of the “specific” allegations.
Minutes after Johnson apologized and said appointing Pincher was a “mistake,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced his departure, quickly followed by Foreign Minister Rishi Sunak.
Pincher resigned from his post last week. after new allegations surfaced that he groped two men at a private club in London. He later lost the Tory whip, which means he now sits as an independent MP in the House of Commons.
Sir Robert Buckland, who served as Johnson’s solicitor until September last year, told Sky News: “If the writing wasn’t on the wall last night, it is very clearly written on the wall this morning.”
He said the prime minister “had no choice but to leave office”, calling on him to “think of the good, not only of the party but of the country”.
Former Brexit minister Lord Frost also said Johnson could not continue in his role, tweeting: “If the PM insists on fighting this, he will do serious damage to the party and government and destroy his place in history.” .
He also targeted those remaining in the cabinet and urged them to resign, adding: “Those who continue to support the prime minister in his actions will suffer serious reputational damage in the future.”