Public health minister Steve Brine quits over Brexit

Mr Brine was one of three MPs to quit their frontbench posts last night to vote against the government and support an amendment put forward by Sir Oliver Letwin.

“Health is without question the best prepared department in Whitehall”

Steve Brine 

Business minister Richard Harrington and foreign minister Alistair Burt – who has formerly held the social care brief – also stepped down.

The so-called Letwin amendment was passed and will allow MPs to seize control of Commons business in order to hold a series of “indicative” votes on the way forward in the Brexit debacle.

In his resignation letter to prime minster Theresa May, Mr Brine said he was giving up his ministerial position, because of fears that the UK was heading towards a no deal Brexit. He will continue to serve as MP of Winchester and Chandler’s Ford.

“As we discussed at length, I feel so passionate that leaving without a withdrawal agreement (commonly referred to as a ‘deal’) is not acceptable to me or in the national interest,” he said in the letter.

Mr Brine added that his opposition of “no deal” had been informed by “countless public statements” from business, public services, security services and testimony from his own constituents, as well as from his own experience in government.

“A brilliant minister who is passionate about public health”

Jeremy Hunt 

In addition, Mr Brine – who had been parliamentary under secretary of state for public health and primary care since June 2017 – claimed the Department of Health and Social Care was “without question” the most prepared department for Brexit.

“I want to pay tribute to the highly competent and professional team at DH, led by your outstanding secretary of state Matt Hancock, who have done everything they can to ensure medicines and medical supplies will be protected for patients whatever form our exit from the EU takes,” he said.

“Health is without question the best prepared department in Whitehall at the team deserve credit for that,” said Mr Brine. 

Mr Brine said he had supported Ms May’s draft withdrawal agreement twice and would “do so again without hesitation”.

However, he added that it appeared to be a “tall order” for it to pass though the Commons.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt – who led the DHSC until July 2018 – said Mr Brine’s resignation was a “massive loss” to the government.

He wrote on Twitter: “A brilliant minister who is passionate about public health and should be proud of his record, especially on tackling cancer and the prevention agenda. He will be back one way or another I have no doubt.”