Theresa May signals Whitehall rejig with two new Cabinet posts

David Davis is secretary of state for exiting the European Union – while Liam Fox will head up new Department for International Trade

Whitehall looked set to get two new departments on Wednesday night, as the just-appointed prime minister Theresa May named her new secretaries of state for Brexit and international trade.

May, who took over as prime minister from David Cameron, has already appointed long-serving eurosceptic backbencher David Davis as the new secretary of state for exiting the European Union.

Meanwhile Liam Fox, the former defence secretary who quit government under a cloud in 2011, has been brought back to head up a new Department for International Trade.

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It is not yet clear how the new departments will sit within the existing structure of Whitehall, but, ahead of May's appointments, both the Institute for Government and MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warned that setting up a dedicated department to lead on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union could lead to turf wars over areas of responsibility.

In another surprise move, Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and prominent Brexit campaigner who decided not to run for the leadership of the Conservative party, has been named as foreign secretary, where he steps into the role vacated by Philip Hammond.

Hammond meanwhile replaces George Osborne as chancellor, with Osborne, who has been at the Treasury since 2010 and had indicated a willingness to serve in May's administration, leaving the government. It has been reported that he was not offered a job under May.

Amber Rudd moves from the Department for Energy and Climate Change to become home secretary, and Michael Fallon will stay on as defence secretary.

You can follow all the latest Cabinet updates live on CSW's dedicated political sister site

May's appointments came after she used her first speech as prime minister made a pitch for the political centre ground and vowed to "build a better Britain".

In a clear message to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who is preparing the ground for a second independence referendum, May promised to "maintain the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".

Speaking after accepting the Queen's invitation to form a new government, the former home secretary said: "We believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens - every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from.

"That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.

"If you’re a white working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately.

"If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home."

Addressing ordinary voters directly, she added: "I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle.

"The government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.

"When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you.

"When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you."

The new prime minister said her government "will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world" after Brexit.

With her husband Philip looking on, she added: "We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.

"That will be the mission of the government I lead. And together, we will build a better Britain."


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