British aid minister Priti Patel has resigned over undisclosed meetings she held with Israeli officials in September, posing a new test of Prime Minister Theresa May’s authority as she negotiates Brexit.
The International Development secretary cut short a visit to Africa and met the prime minister at Downing Street. Her resignation was announced shortly afterwards and an exchange of letters between Patel and May was quickly published.
Patel apologised to May on Monday for failing to report that she had met the officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a holiday and broke rules by straying into matters reserved for the foreign ministry. Critics accused her behaviour as being tantamount to running a freelance foreign policy, undermining the government’s official stance on the highly sensitive issues surrounding Israel and the Palestinians.
Referring to reports about her actions in her resignation letter, Priti Patel said “I am sorry that these have served as a distraction from the work of of the Department for International Development and of the Government as a whole”, adding that her actions “fell below” the standards required of the job.
The prime minister – in her reply to Patel – reminded the now ex-minister that the governrment’s work with Israel “must be done formally, and through official channels… Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign”.
Further undermining May’s authority, there are calls for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to retract remarks that jailed Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was teaching journalism before her arrest in Iran last year. She is serving a five-year sentence for allegedly plotting to topple the government and there are fears Johnson’s remarks may increase her sentence.
Meanwhile May’s most senior minister Damian Green is also under investigation after claims that pornography was found on one of his work computers and that he made an inappropriate sexual
advance on a young woman. He denies any wrongdoing.
And last week, close May ally Michael Fallon, the defence minister, was forced to resign over a growing sexual misconduct scandal.
Priti Patel’s resignation letter. pic.twitter.com/iUBJtQKxk8— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 8, 2017