Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle has tipped the balance towards ministers who backed the UK remaining in the European Union, following a string of high-profile resignations.
There are now 20 members of the cabinet who backed the campaign to Remain in the European Union, with eight supporting Leave. Previously there were 19 that backed Remain and nine that supported Leave.
The Prime Minister’s reshuffle came after the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who were unhappy with the prime minister’s Brexit proposals at Chequers.
Davis said that the UK was “giving away too much, too easily” in its negotiations with the EU and that it was in the national interest to have a Brexit Secretary who “is an enthusiastic believer” in May’s approach.
Johnson resigned yesterday and accused May of pursuing a “semi-Brexit” and said that the UK is “truly headed for the status of colony” in his resignation letter. He also warned that the “Brexit dream is dying”.
Markets reacted positively to the signs of a soft Brexit indicated by the Chequers agreement, but following Johnson’s resignation the pound fell to £1.125 against the euro.
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The pairs’ resignation forced May to initiate her second reshuffle in seven months. She replaced Davis with prominent Leave campaigner Dominic Raab as Brexit Secretary, while former Health Secretary and the initially vocal Remain supporter Jeremy Hunt replaced Johnson.
The resignations of Davis and Johnson are the sixth and seventh cabinet exits since November. May had previously ensured replacements matched their predecessor’s Brexit stance in a like-for-like approach.
However, the replacement of Johnson with Hunt has angered some eurosceptics, who have accused Theresa May of running a “Remainer Government”. This is despite Hunt saying that he would vote to Leave if there was another referendum.
Cabinet reshuffle 2018: Exits since November
2 November 2017: Michael Fallon (Remain) replaced by Gavin Williamson (Remain)
9 November 2017: Priti Patel (Leave) replaced by Penny Mordaunt (Leave)
8 January 2018: Damian Green (Remain) replaced by David Lidington (Remain)
8 January 2018: Justine Greening (Remain) replaced by Damian Hinds (Remain)
30 April 2018: Amber Rudd (Remain) replaced by Sajid Javid (Remain)
9 July 2018: David Davis (Leave) replaced by Dominic Raab (Leave)
9 July 2018: Boris Johnson (Leave) replaced by Jeremy Hunt (Remain)
Hunt’s appointment means that the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary all openly backed Britain remaining in the EU during the 2016 referendum. Brexiteers fear that this has tipped the balance in favour of Remain.
Analysis by the FT found that the majority of the Conservatives elected in the 2017 election supported Remain, suggesting that some voters were open to the idea of a flexible Brexit. Of the 317 elected Conservatives, 176 backed Remain — a majority of 56%.
The new-look cabinet has a 71% majority of those that voted Remain. In October, though, Hunt appeared to change his mind on Brexit, telling LBC that he had found the EU Commission “arrogant” and “disappointing” during negotiations. When his and Elizabeth Truss’ post-referendum change of allegiance is taken into account, the pro-EU sentiment of the cabinet drops to 64%.
Elsewhere, Leave-backer Kit Malthouse has been appointed as Housing Minister, filling the vacancy left by Raab.
Pressure continues to mount on May as prominent Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg launched an attack on the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan, and Wales’ first minister called for a General Election.
Reshuffle 2018: current Cabinet and their Brexit stance
Role: Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service
Role: Minister for the Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Role: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Second Lord of the Treasury
Role: Home Secretary
Role: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Voted: Remain but has since changed to Leave
Role: Brexit Secretary
Role: Defence Secretary
Role: Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Role: Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Role: Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Role: Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Role: Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
Role: Secretary of State for Education
Role: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Role: Secretary of State for Transport
Role: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Role: Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Privy Seal
Role: Secretary of State for Scotland
Role: Secretary of State for Wales
Role: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Role: Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities
Role: Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Role: Minister without Portfolio
Also attends Cabinet:
Role: Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Voted: Remain but has since switched to Leave
Role: Leader of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council
Role: Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip)
Role: Attorney General
Role: Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth
Role: Minister of State for Immigration