Brussels braced for fall of Theresa May’s government

Brussels braced for fall of Theresa May’s government

Priti Patel becomes second minister forced out in a week

Priti Patel arriving at Downing Street before she resigned from the cabinet last night. She admitted failing to disclose full details of her contacts with Israeli politicians
European Union leaders are preparing for the fall of Theresa May before the new year, it emerged yesterday, as the prime minister lost her second cabinet minister in a week.

Fears are growing in Brussels that the instability of Mrs May’s government raises the real prospect of a change of leadership or elections leading to a Labour victory.
One European leader told The Times that officials were planning for both scenarios. “There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile,” the leader said. “Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes [Brexit] negotiations very difficult.”
All options are under consideration in Brussels, including a “no deal” disorderly exit by Britain from the EU or a reversal of the Brexit decision after new elections. The source noted that “the referendum decision was very close”.
He spoke as it emerged that Mrs May would carry out a limited “one in, one out” reshuffle after Priti Patel was forced into a humiliating resignation last night. The international development secretary quit after being recalled to Downing Street from an official trip to Africa in the public glare. Ms Patel accepted that she “fell below the standards of transparency and openness” in failing to disclose full details of her contacts with Israeli politicians.
Friends of Ms Patel believe that the Foreign Office was responsible for leaking details of her trip in order to kill off her attempt to change government policy towards co-operating with Israel on Syria. Her departure came a week after Sir Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Downing Street said last night that Ms Patel’s exit would not trigger a full overhaul of the administration. Her replacement is likely to be announced today but Mrs May could wait until tomorrow, senior figures said.
The exit of a leading campaigner for Brexit leaves the prime minister facing again having to carry out running repairs on her battered administration. Mrs May’s calculations are being further complicated as hopes fade for an early resolution of a cabinet office inquiry into her deputy, Damian Green.
It is understood that his fate could hinge on Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, after she told MPs that she was willing to help “in any way” over the allegation that pornography was found on one of Mr Green’s office computers eight years ago. Mr Green denies the charge.
Ms Patel resigned after it emerged that she had held 12 engagements with senior Israeli figures, including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, during a holiday in the country in August. She held two additional meetings, one in Britain and one in the United States, after her return from Israel.
In a further development, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that during her stay in the country she visited an Israeli military field hospital in the occupied Golan Heights. Britain, like other members of the international community, has never recognised Israeli control of the area seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
In her resignation letter Ms Patel said: “While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.”
The meetings, which took place without officials and were in relation to one of the most sensitive areas of foreign policy, led to Ms Patel apologising and being given a dressing down by the prime minister on Monday. But subsequent disclosures added to pressure on Ms Patel, culminating in a meeting in Downing Street lasting about 30 minutes during which it was made clear that her cabinet career was over.
Although no Tory MP publicly defended Ms Patel allies were reported to have warned that the former minister, who played a leading role in the Vote Leave campaign, was able to do “hard damage” to Mrs May.

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