Robert Jenrick has resigned from his post as immigration minister over the government’s Rwanda plan.
Home Secretary James Cleverly confirmed his colleague’s departure after repeated questioning in the Commons.
Speculation mounted after Mr Jenrick was missing from the frontbench as Mr Cleverly gave a statement on the government’s bid to rescue the deal to fly migrants who arrive illegally in the UK to East Africa.
When asked by MP Ashely Dalton if he had resigned, Mr Cleverly said: “That has been confirmed.”
Earlier friends of Mr Jenrick told Sky News he had quit but he has not confirmed it himself.
His departure comes after emergency legislation aimed at reviving the stalled Rwanda asylum policy avoided the most hard-line option to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns, on the right of the party, welcomed Mr Jenrick’s resignation adding: “I know what a decent man he is and how he adores his family. This may be the death knell for Sunak’s leadership.”
However the move was attacked by Opposition MPs, with the Lib Dems saying it is “yet more Conservative chaos as another minister flees this sinking ship”.
“Rishi Sunak is no longer in control of his party and has lost the support of the country,” they added.
“The prime minister knows that his Rwanda plan is totally unworkable, immoral and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. It is time the government scrapped it and focused on fixing the broken asylum system instead of fighting amongst themselves.”
Mr Sunak promised the emergency legislation after the Supreme Court ruled the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful. The draft bill, published on Wednesday, compels judges to treat the East African nation as a safe country and gives ministers powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act.
But it does not go as far as providing powers to dismiss the European Convention on Human Rights, as hardliners including sacked home secretary Suella Braverman have demanded.
Earlier she warned the Tories face “electoral oblivion in a matter of months” if the legislation introduced is “destined to fail”.
But complying with those demands would have left Mr Sunak facing an outcry from his MPs from the more centrist One Nation faction.
Rwanda also said they pull out of the deal if it broke international law.