Britain’s prime minister Theresa May held her first cabinet meeting on Tuesday (19) with her new team, which includes two Asian secretaries of state, Priti Patel and Sajid Javid.
In addition, Reading West MP Alok Sharma has become the parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
May, who backed remaining in the European Union, picked Brexit campaigners for several top roles, among them Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.
She insisted they all help to ensure Britain’s exit from the EU is a success.
She told her ministers: “It would be down to every person sat around the cabinet table to help ensure we spread the benefits of leaving the European Union and opportunities ahead to everyone
up and down the country.”
“Brexit does mean Brexit and we are going to make a success of it. We will do that by forging a new role for the United Kingdom in the world,” May added.
“But we won’t be a government that is defined just by Brexit. We will also be a government defined by the social reform we undertake,” she said, as colleagues banged their hands on the table in
a traditional mark of appreciation.
The prime minister will set up three cabinet committees – on trade and industry, leaving the EU and social reform that she will chair herself – to drive the government’s top priorities.
May, who took charge as the leader of the country last Wednesday (13), overhauled the cabinet a day later. She sacked a raft of ministers, promoted loyalists and put supporters of Britain’s
exit from the EU firmly in charge of negotiating its terms.
Javid, who was business secretary in David Cameron’s government, is now the new communities secretary, leading the department responsible for local government. The bus driver’s son had teamed with Stephen Crabb on a double ticket for leadership of the party before the former work and pensions secretary bowed out of the race and supported May.
Having enjoyed a successful career in the City where he was a former senior managing director at Deutsche Bank, Javid will now be responsible for issues including community cohesion, planning reforms and supporting families.
He tweeted that he was delighted with his new job and there was “lots to do”.
“The prime minister has been very clear in setting out the government’s mission to build a better Britain that works for every one of us, and I am committed to achieving that,” he said.
Patel was promoted into May’s top team as secretary of state for international development, where she will lead the UK’s work to end extreme poverty in 28 countries including India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
A leading Brexiteer, Patel said she was delighted with her new role and would make sure aid was firmly invested in the UK’s national interest.
“Successfully leaving the European Union will require a more outward looking Britain than ever before, deepening our international partnerships to secure our place in the world by supporting economic prosperity, stability and security overseas,” she said.
“That’s why my department will be working across government, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the new Department for International Trade, the Home Office and others.
“We will continue to tackle the great challenges of our time: poverty, disease and the causes of mass migration, while helping to create millions of jobs in countries across the developing world – our
trading partners of the future.”
However, some have been sceptical about Patel’s recent appointment after she cast doubt on the purpose of international aid in 2103. Back then, she had suggested the department should be
scrapped and replaced with a trade-focused body to help businesses invest in the developing world.
Writing in this week’s Eastern Eye, Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, an independent think-tank, said: “Patel will want to work with fellow Leave supporters, new trade secretary Dr Liam Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnson to send a clear message that post-Brexit Britain has no intention of withdrawing from the global stage.”
In total, fewer than a third of the ministers in May’s new cabinet backed leaving the bloc.
In the new government, Sharma will focus on Asia and the Pacific in the foreign office, while also continuing in his role as the prime minister’s infrastructure envoy to India.
Sharma told Eastern Eye that he was hopeful he would be visiting some of the countries covered in his remit over the coming weeks. He added that the regions he was responsible for were important parts of the world which were crucial for the UK’s prosperity and security.
“I look forward to working closely with my new colleagues and my counterparts across Asia and the Pacific, with a particular focus on strengthening commercial ties, increasing investment opportunities in both directions and promoting human rights in the region.”
Baroness Sandeep Verma has been removed from her position as parliamentary under secretary of state at the department for international development. Shailesh Vara, who urged Britain’s
Asians to vote to remain in the EU, was another prominent Conservative who lost his role as parliamentary under secretary of state at the ministry of justice.
May was due to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday (20) to discuss political developments in Turkey, the refugee crisis as well as Brexit. Leading businessman Dr Rami Ranger and chairman of Sun Mark Ltd told Eastern Eye that May’s first act in forming her cabinet had demonstrated she has succeeded in forming a broad based government with people who were against and for Brexit.
“To make them unite for a common goal speaks about her vision, tenacity and determination,” he said.
Dr Ranger added: “We are lucky to have her as our strong leader, leading the nation ahead in the wake of Brexit. This undoubtedly is the most critical period in the history of our nation, when we are
about to disengage from our trading partners of 40 years.
“Britain is a divided nation and only a leader with experience and stature can succeed in reuniting us, especially now as we are in the uncharted territory of forging trade and political links beyond the European community.”
Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, said many university and business leaders will have reservations about the new prime minister.
He said May’s record on immigration during her time as home secretary showed her to be someone who did not take into account the economic and cultural strengths of immigration to Britain.
Bilimoria added that May had defended many policies which were untenable in a modern, global economy like Britain, including stripping international students of the two-year post study work
visa and continuing to include students in net migration figures.