Jeremy Hunt becomes new Foreign Secretary following resignation of Boris Johnson

Long-serving health secretary makes the move to the foreign office

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 10 July 2018 09:14
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Jeremy Hunt has been appointed as the new foreign secretary after Boris Johnson quit the cabinet in protest at Theresa May‘s Brexit policy.

The long-serving health secretary was summoned to Downing Street at the end of a dramatic 24 hours, which saw the resignations of Mr Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis – both prominent Eurosceptics - and junior Brexit minister Steve Baker.

Mr Hunt, who has been tipped as a future leader, turned down offers of promotion when Ms May reshuffled her top team earlier this year.

However, fresh from securing £20bn of funding for the NHS on its 70th birthday, he relinquished his post as health secretary in favour of the foreign office on Monday.

“My principal job at a time of massive importance for our country is to stand four-square behind the Prime Minister so that we can get through an agreement with the European Union based on what was agreed by the Cabinet last week at Chequers,” Mr Hunt said.

“This is a time when the world is looking at us as a country, wondering what type of country we are going to be in a post-Brexit world.

“What I want to say to them is Britain is going to be a dependable ally, a country that stands up for the values that matter to the people of this country, and will be a strong confident voice in the world.”

The Remain-backing cabinet minister has started to sound more pro-Brexit in recent times, which has been interpreted by some as an attempt to burnish his leadership credentials.

His appointment may be seen by critics as an attempt to tilt the cabinet in Ms May’s favour, by putting a once pro-EU minister in a powerful office of state.

A controversial figure at times, Mr Hunt held the post of health secretary for a record six years, facing controversy over the junior doctors’ strike and accusations of NHS cuts, and presiding over the “worst ever” winter for the NHS.

During the debate surrounding the issue, Mr Hunt said it would likely be his “last big job in politics“.

Mr Hunt also rowed with physicist Professor Stephen Hawking during the final months of the scientist’s life over the future of the health service.

He was previously the culture secretary between 2010 and 2012, in the build up to the London Olympics.

Ex-culture secretary Matt Hancock will take on his role at the department of health, while Jeremy Wright, the former attorney general, takes up the culture, media and sport brief from Mr Hancock.

The mini-reshuffle was sparked when Mr Johnson plunged the government into crisis by quitting his post less than a day after Mr Davis walked out.

Both men had originally backed Ms May’s new blueprint for Brexit at a crunch summit at Chequers on Friday, where the prime minister thought she had managed to unite her warring ministers on the way forward.

But any hope of peace was shattered within the first 48 hours, when both men decided to quit rather than be forced to back her plan under collective responsibility rules, where ministers are required to toe the government line.

Mr Johnson broke with convention by publishing an explosive resignation letter, where he warned the PM that the Brexit ”dream is dying” and he could not support her plans that could reduce Britain to a “colony” of the EU.

But the prime minister sent him an icy riposte, saying it was “right [he] should step down” if he cannot support her Brexit deal.

Former housing minister Dominic Raab will replace Mr Davis at the head of the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU), while Tory backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris will fill in for Mr Baker.

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