May reshuffle ahead of Brexit crucial talks

London, Monday

British Prime Minister Theresa May began a major shake-up of her ministers today as she seeks to give fresh impetus to her government in a crucial year for the Brexit negotiations.

The most senior foreign, finance and Brexit ministers were expected to keep their jobs, but many others were expected to move in a reshuffle sparked by the sacking of May’s deputy last month.

Damian Green was the third minister to leave the cabinet in a space of weeks, after the defence secretary and international development minister both quit — all three following separate scandals.

“The prime minister has started a refresh of her ministerial team,” said the official Downing Street Twitter feed. The chairman of May’s Conservative party, Patrick McLoughlin, was the first to go, telling Sky News that his time in government had been a “great privilege”.

In a chaotic start, a new chairman was announced on Twitter — only for the tweet to be almost immediately deleted. A different minister, Brandon Lewis, was then confirmed to the role.

McLoughlin had been widely tipped for the sack after last summer’s disastrous snap election, in which the Tories lost their parliamentary majority. He also drew fire after a protester interrupted May’s speech to the party conference in October — an address that was also marred by a coughing fit and a collapsing set.

It was one of several low points in a tough year for the prime minister, who took over the helm of a divided government and country in July 2016 after the EU referendum.

The cabinet reshuffle is being viewed as a chance at a fresh start, although it also brings risks of upsetting the delicate balance of eurosceptic and pro-European ministers. —AFP

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