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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

New Brexit secretary named after British cabinet resignations

Former home secretary Amber Rudd has returned to the cabinet as work and pensions minister and Steve Barclay has been made Brexit minister

Stephen Barclay has been promoted to Brexit Secretary. AP
Stephen Barclay has been promoted to Brexit Secretary. AP

Embattled British prime minister Theresa May has replaced two senior ministers who resigned from her cabinet in protest at a draft Brexit deal.

Steve Barclay has been appointed as Brexit secretary, having previously served as a junior minister in the Department for Health.

A Leave supporter in the 2016 referendum, Mr Barclay replaces Dominic Raab, who quit on Thursday.

Downing Street confirmed that Amber Rudd would be returning to the cabinet as work and pensions minister following Esther McVey's resignation.

A remain supporter and ally of Mrs May, Ms Rudd stepped down as home secretary earlier this year over her involvement in the Windrush scandal.

Her appointment was instantly criticised by Labour, who said it was "extraordinary" Ms Rudd had been allowed back into the cabinet before victims of the scandal had been compensated.

Meanwhile Mrs May's leadership was looking increasingly fragile on Friday as the threat of an imminent vote of no confidence looked increasingly more likely.

UK media reported that the threshold of 48 senior cabinet members calling for the vote is close to being met.

So far 21 Conservative MPs have said publicly that they have given letters of no confidence was delivered to Sir Graham Brady, the head of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs which runs leadership elections in the party.

Mark Francois, a strident Brexiteer, claimed that '[Mrs May] Just Doesn't Listen' and claimed that it was "something he thought he'd never do".

Doubt over her continued leadership of the party began when senior figures Mr Raab and Ms McVey resigned on Thursday following a cabinet meeting that signed off on the Brexit deal, which some criticise for keeping Britain locked in a backstop arrangement it cannot unilaterally withdraw from.

Mrs May has come under renewed pressure after Michael Gove rejected her offer to take on the role as Brexit minister.

_____________

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What's next for Brexit? The draft deal explained

Pound plunge was mere prelude to what may happen with no deal

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No-deal Dover rejects Theresa May’s Brexit dreams of EU compromise

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Rumours of Mr Gove's resignation as Environment secretary which had been swirling overnight were ended when he stated that he would remain in his post.

Arriving at his office on Friday morning, he told reporters that he "absolutely" had confidence in the prime minister and was "looking forward to continuing to work with all colleagues in government and in parliament to get the best future for Britain."

Mr Gove and other cabinet Brexiteers Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt and Andrea Leadsom have agreed to stay “to get this in a better place” according to The Sunday Times's political editor Tim Shipman. “Resigning and joining a rebellion is not going to help anything”.

Mr Fox, the international trade secretary, chided hardline Brexiteers as he told journalists that “I hope that we all take a rational and reasonable view of this, as I say, we are not elected to do what we want, we’re elected to do what’s in the national interest, and ultimately I hope that across parliament we’ll recognise that [a] deal is better than no deal.

“Businesses do require certainty and confidence as they go forward in their planning an there are those round the world who are waiting to get certainty also to begin to discuss trade agreements with the United Kingdom, it’s in our national interest,” Mr Fox said.

Mrs May took to national radio earlier in the day to address public concerns of the deal. Answering callers' questions about Brexit on London's LBC radio on Friday morning, Mrs May said her job was to persuade MPs from all parties that the agreement was in their constituents' interests.

Giving an example of the consequence of a no deal, Mrs May, who is diabetic, said her insulin comes from Denmark and that medical supplies such as the one she depends on would be cut off in the event of a hard Brexit.

Mrs May said her government was "working to ensure continuity so that people don't see a sudden cliff edge" in the event of a no deal.

Also speaking on LBC earlier this week, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, admitted that lives would be at risk due to a shortage of medicine in the event of a no deal.

Mrs May stressed the need for “collective responsibility” among her party in ensuring the draft deal moves forward.

Mrs May also admitted that she could lose the crucial support of the Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs at Westminster props up the minority Tory government.

“When this vote comes back, every individual MP will decide how they will vote, whether they are DUP, Conservative, Labour, all parties within the House of Commons,” she said.

“My job is to persuade first and foremost my Conservative benches, those who are working with us – the DUP are working with us, obviously, confidence and supply – but I want to be able to say to every MP: I believe this is the best deal for the UK.”

The Daily Telegraph had reported on Thursday that the DUP would refuse to vote for Mrs May's deal and that their continued support for the Tories would ”depend on who the leader of the Conservative party is”.

Telegraph reporter Harry Yorke tweeted: ”The DUP will not vote for the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form under any circumstances.”