British Prime Minister Theresa May May maintains cabinet balance on Brexit
British Prime Minister Theresa May has named a pro-Brexit lawmaker to succeed Priti Patel as secretary of international development a day after the latter resigned. May named Penny Mordaunt on Thursday after Patel resigned on Wednesday over revelations that she held more than a dozen unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials, Efe news reported.
Theresa May. Pic/AFP
To fill the vacancy, the Conservative Prime Minister turned to Mordaunt, a Member of Parliament from Portsmouth North, who has served until now as Minister for disabled people in the Department for Work and Pensions. Mordaunt, like Patel, is a firm supporter of the idea that the UK should leave the European Union.
May, who was on the Remain side going into the June 2016 referendum on Brexit, committed to carrying out the will of the voters when she replaced David Cameron as Conservative leader following the vote. Even after the referendum, however, many Conservatives have remained distinctly unenthusiastic about pulling out of the EU.
By choosing the 44-year-old Mordaunt, May has maintained the balance of forces between the pro- and anti-Brexit positions within the Cabinet. May has been walking a tight-rope since the Conservatives lost their absolute majority in Parliament in the snap election she called five months ago. Patel's resignation was announced following a meeting with May on Wednesday at No. 10 Downing Street.
Patel had to interrupt an official visit to Africa after May summoned her for the second time in three days to discuss the meetings in Israel. She became the second senior official in a week to leave the government under a cloud. Michael Fallon stepped down as defence secretary last week amid a burgeoning scandal over sexual harassment by politicians.
Earlier this week, Patel was forced to apologise after the Department for International Development confirmed that she held at least a dozen meetings with Israeli officials. These included one with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss sending UK aid funds to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to support unspecified humanitarian operations in the occupied Golan Heights.