Tories demand Theresa May replace Patel with "Brexit enthusiast"

Catherine Neilan
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Andrea Leadsom Holds A Rally To Bid For Support In The Conservative Leadership
Brexit-backing Penny Mordaunt is a strong contender to take Patel's job (Source: Getty)

Tory MPs have urged Theresa May to replace Priti Patel with a "Brexit enthusiast" after the Leave-supporting minister was forced to resign last night.

Patel stepped down as international development secretary after further revelations about her meetings with Israeli officials came to light. She told the Prime Minister her actions had "fallen short" of what was expected of a Cabinet minister and "of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

Patel is the second minister to be forced to quit the Cabinet in a week, after Michael Fallon's embarrassing resignation over sexual misconduct claims.

May has still not revealed who will replace the Witham MP, who was a prominent supporter of Brexit, but is under pressure to maintain the delicate balance of views. Lobby firm Cicero estimates that promoting a Remainer would take support for a deal and transition to 56 per cent of Cabinet voting power, while appointing a Leaver would keep it at 48 per cent.

Jacob Rees-Mogg told Channel 4 News last night: "I don’t think it has to necessarily be somebody who campaigned for Brexit, but it does have to be somebody who is enthusiastic about Brexit."

Although Iain Duncan Smith told the Today programme "we are all Brexiteers now", he said May must look for someone to "be in support of David Davis and others".

"I think therefore the balance on having strong Brexit views is one that in all probability that the prime minister will certainly look for," he added.

Runners and riders

Work and pensions minister Penny Mordaunt tops the list of potential replacements, as she fits the bill both for her stance on Brexit and as she maintains the gender split.

Former soldier and diplomat Rory Stewart and international development minister Alistair Burt are also strong contenders.

Pro-Brexit MP Theresa Villiers and Anne Milton, both of whom have ministerial experience, are also potential candidates.

Foreign minister Alan Duncan and Treasury select committee chair Nicky Morgan have also been named as possible replacements, but both Remain-supporters would be difficult appointments for May to get past her Brexiteer colleagues.

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