UK's Northern Ireland minister quits as May shuffles Cabinet


Jeremy Hunt: The Health Secretary is the favourite to replace Damian Green as First Secretary of State, but Theresa May could delay his move until after the winter.

The chairman of the Conservative party, Patrick McLoughlin, was the first to go on Monday, telling Sky News that his time in government had been a "great privilege".

The PM has been forced to make changes to her top team following Damian Green's resignation last month as "deputy PM", after he admitted lying about the alleged discovery of pornographic images on his Commons computer during a police raid. Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis, for instance, was appointed Conservative Party chairman, a role that includes the day-to-day running of the party.

The reshuffle took on a weird twist Monday morning as the official Conservative party Twitter account tweeted an image congratulating Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling on becoming the chairman of the Conservative party.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.

The new minister will provide regular updates on preparation for leaving the bloc without a trade deal and have "a significant budget", the paper said.

The biggest casualty was the education secretary Justine Greening, who after spending nearly three hours at Number 10 quit the government, rather than take on the Work and Pensions portfolio.

"No wonder Theresa May's struggling to negotiate Brexit - she can't even organise a reshuffle", tweeted opposition Labour MP Stephen Kinnock.

After a hard start when her party had to delete a tweet naming the wrong person as its new chairman, May went on to promote more women, black and younger lawmakers to challenge critics who call the Conservatives "male, pale and stale".

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Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, kept his job at the foreign office, despite challenging May's strategy past year, as did fellow eurosceptic Liam Fox, the global trade minister.

After starting the two-year Brexit process in March last year, Britain struck a deal in December on the financial settlement with Brussels, as well as expatriate rights and the Irish border.

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at 10 Downing Street ahead of the reshuffle of her Cabinet.

The UK delegation will include Nigel Farage, an MEP, who said on British radio on Sunday that he represented "the views of the 17.4 million people who stood up against the establishment" to vote to leave the EU.

He said he would urge the European Commission's Brexit taskforce to withdraw the statements made so far, in light of the deal reached in December to begin trade negotiations.

May's decision to keep them in post is in part a reflection of her need to balance Brexit-backing ministers like Johnson and Davis with more pro-EU politicians such as Hammond and Rudd.

May was reportedly set to create a new "no-deal" cabinet post on Monday with responsibility to prepare for a possible breakdown in the talks.

Former justice secretary David Lidington took over the policy coordination role previously held by Green, who quit after a pornography scandal, but did not inherit the title of Ms May's deputy.

Greg Clark: Although talk of the Business Secretary being replaced by Boris Johnson may have been premature, if the department changes significantly his services may no longer be needed.

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