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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Jeremy Hunt named British foreign secretary

Former health minister takes over from Boris Johnson, who resigned over prime minister Theresa May's Brexit deal reached last week

Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in  London after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting. He was named Britain's foreign secretary on July 9, 2018. Tolga Akmen / AFP
Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in  London after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting. He was named Britain's foreign secretary on July 9, 2018. Tolga Akmen / AFP

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been confirmed as the new British foreign secretary, following a day of enforced musical chairs for the UK cabinet.

The move, in which Mr Hunt replaces Boris Johnson in the role — traditionally seen as one of the great offices of state in Britain — came after two Brexiteers quit the cabinet. The events took place after the Chequers summit, despite its aim to unite the fractious ruling Conservative Party.

On Sunday night, David Davies, the Brexit secretary resigned, followed on Monday afternoon by Mr Johnson.

Mr Hunt had previously served as health secretary, effectively running the National Health Service. He was the longest-serving minister in that role in history.

Mr Hunt's six years in charge of a political hot potato, always a difficult ministry for the Conservatives to run due to its historic ties with the opposition Labour party which founded it in 1948, have been controversial, and resulted in junior doctors going on strike for the first time in four decades to protest changes.

However, the recent announcement that the NHS will receive billions more in funding in the year of its 70th anniversary have provided him with a good opportunity to leave the ministry.

While Mr Johnson was one of the most high-profile Brexit campaigners, Mr Hunt backed Remain during the 2016 referendum campaign.

Mr Hunt told LBC Radio in October 2017 he had changed his mind on the issue, in part due to what he said was disappointing "arrogance" in the EU's behaviour during negotiations.

Last month, Mr Hunt said it was inappropriate for businesses like Airbus to issue warnings about moving jobs because of Brexit and that they should instead get behind prime minister Theresa May in her push for a good deal for Britain on leaving the EU.

Mr Hunt was replaced as health secretary by Matt Hancock, formerly the culture minister.