Stephen Barclay named new Brexit Secretary

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Stephen Barclay has been picked as the new Brexit secretary, as Theresa May seeks to fill her cabinet after several of her top team quit.

The MP for North East Cambridgeshire – who is a Leave supporter – had been a health minister since January.

He replaces Dominic Raab, who resigned on Thursday over Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement for Brexit.

A No 10 spokesman indicated that Mr Barclay would focus on the domestic preparations rather than negotiations.

Mr Barclay’s promotion comes after a tumultuous few days for Mrs May, after two senior ministers and several other junior ministers and aides quit following the publication of the proposed Brexit agreement.

And some Conservative Brexiteers who are unhappy with the deal have also been submitting letters of no-confidence in Mrs May. If 48 letters are sent, then a vote will be triggered and Mrs May could face a challenge to her leadership.

But shortly before Mr Barclay’s appointment, two leading Brexiteers in the cabinet, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox publicly threw their support behind her.

New Brexit secretary ‘delighted’

In a tweet, Mr Barclay said he was “looking forward” to getting to work.

Mr Barclay becomes the third Brexit Secretary since the role was created, after Mr Raab and David Davis – who resigned over Mrs May’s Brexit plans in July.

He has been congratulated on Twitter by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, who said he was “a star” when he worked in her department.

But Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “Stephen Barclay’s appointment changes absolutely nothing.

“After two years of negotiation, the prime minister has failed to deliver a Brexit deal that can command the support of Parliament.

“A new face in the Brexit department will do nothing to bring this divided government back together.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove – who the BBC understood had at one point been contemplating his position before rallying behind Mrs May – is understood to have turned down the role of Brexit secretary following Mr Raab’s departure.

Who is Stephen Barclay?

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UK Parliament

Stephen Barclay – or Steve Barclay as he calls himself on Twitter – is a former banker and has also held the posts of City minister and a whip at the Treasury.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said Mr Barclay was not a household name and it was a big promotion for him.

But he also described the 46-year-old as ultra-loyal, having never rebelled against the government.

Vicky Ford, a fellow Tory MP and a friend of Mr Barclay, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme he is known for listening “very, very hard and getting things done”.

Mr Barclay, who is said to be a close friend of Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell, is married and has two children.

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Meanwhile, Amber Rudd has been named the new work and pensions secretary – replacing Esther McVey, the second senior minister who resigned over the PM’s Brexit plans on Thursday.

Ms Rudd said she was “delighted” to be given the role, and saw it as her job to “try to iron out” the issues with Universal Credit.

In her first interview in her new job, Ms Rudd called on any colleagues planning to submit letters of no-confidence in Mrs May to “think again”.

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Amber Rudd visited her new workplace on Friday evening

“This is not a time for changing our leader,” she said.

“This is a time for pulling together, for making sure we remember who we are here to serve, who we are here to help: that’s the whole of the country.”

Stephen Hammond will take over from Mr Barclay at the department for health and social care.

The government also announced replacements for two junior ministers who resigned over Mrs May’s deal.

John Penrose will join the Northern Ireland office, replacing Shailesh Vara, and Kwasi Kwarteng will go to the Department for Exiting the EU, replacing Suella Braverman.

Mrs May agreed a draft withdrawal agreement for Brexit with her cabinet on Wednesday, which had already been signed off by negotiators from both the UK and EU.

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But the deal led to a backlash from some Brexit-supporting MPs, including Mr Raab and Ms McVey.

Around 20 Tory MPs have publicly called for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, with more thought to have written to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee to call for a vote on her leadership.

But Mrs May responded to critics saying she will stay in No 10 and see the deal through.

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