European leaders ‘expect UK government to fall’ following Priti Patel resignation

Written by Agnes Chambre and Tom Freeman on 9 November 2017 in News

Two high-profile resignations and a diplomatic blunder by the Foreign Secretary leaves Theresa May "fragile", according to a European leader

Theresa May and Priti Patel - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

European leaders are reportedly concerned that Theresa May's "fragile" Government to fall before the new year, following the Cabinet chaos of the last week.

May's cabinet has lost two major players in Michael Fallon, who resigned amid the Westminster sexual harassment scandal, and Priti Patel, who yesterday was summoned from a foreign trip to resign over secret meetings with Israeli officials.

One European leader revealed Brussels are considering all options, from the UK crashing out without a deal to a reversal of the decision to leave the bloc.

The leader told The Times:“There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile. Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes [Brexit] negotiations very difficult.”

Patel quit the Cabinet last night following showdown talks with Theresa May over her secret meetings with Israeli officials during a family holiday in the summer.

After a day of drama and farce, the International Development Secretary resigned following a 33-minute meeting in Number 10.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Patel’s allies warned she felt like a “scapegoat” and said she could go “off like a double-barrelled shotgun”.

An ally said: “She has been obviously constrained in Government in what she can say, but privately she’s been hugely frustrated with the behaviour of some of her colleagues.

"She’ll go off like a double-barrelled shotgun, she is livid. She’ll make her feelings clear about [Remain campaigners] Philip Hammond, Anna Soubry, all of them.

“She is pretty plain-speaking and an admirer of strong government, which is not something we’ve had.”

Another ally told the paper: “She is being made a scapegoat. It is not credible that the Foreign Office knew about these meetings but Downing Street did not.

"She left for Uganda after apologising and being told that she was safe. Now they are bowing to pressure. 

“She could do some pretty hard damage to Downing Street.”
 
Patel’s dramatic departure means May has lost two Cabinet members in just over a week, following Defence Secretary Michael Fallon's resignation last Wednesday.

The Government has also been rocked this week after a gaffe by Boris Johnson left British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk of serving five more years in an Iranian jail.

And Damian Green, the Prime Minister's de facto deputy, is also under investigation over claims he sexually harassed a female journalist, and that pornography was found on his work computer during a police raid in 2008.

The First Secretary categorically denies both allegations.

There may be calls for a vote of no confidence in May's government in the coming days. Labour MP Stephen Kinnock has already called for one, suggesting it should read: “That this house has no confidence in the ability of her majesty’s government to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in such a way as to protect and promote the jobs, livelihoods and long-term interests of the British people.”

Former SNP depute leader candidate Chris McEleny, the party's leader in Inverclyde, has called for his Westminster colleagues to pursue a vote of no confidence. 

"When a Government stops governing it is no longer a Government. This is clearly the most chaotic and lamentable Government in modern history. It is time for them to go," he said.

Theresa May currently does not command a majority in the Commons but a deal with the DUP means she will expect the party to back her if such a vote was to take place. 

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