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Theresa May Appoints A Team Of Rivals To Guide Britain Out Of EU

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May — a supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union — appointed prominent members of both the Remain and Leave campaigns to her cabinet Thursday, uniting dissenting voices in the Conservative party and laying the groundwork for the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

The two most important positions in the British Cabinet are foreign secretary, similar to the U.S. secretary of state, and chancellor of the exchequer, similar to the U.S. secretary of the treasury.

May appointed one of the biggest faces of the Leave Campaign, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, as foreign secretary. Johnson was seen as a likely successor to David Cameron until his one-time ally and fellow prominent Leave campaigner Michael Gove also declared he was in the running. Gove’s declaration split the leave vote in the party and led to the rapid ascension of May.

She chose one of the central faces of the Remain campaign for chancellor of the exchequer, David Cameron’s Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond. Hammond was a vehement supporter of Britain remaining in the EU. The morning after the Brexit vote, Hammond told CNN, “Britain’s influence in the world will be diminished,” and lamented that Britain would lose its place as America’s go-to ally in Europe.

Both Hammond and Johnson will play a central role in negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU. The first order of business for the cabinet is to invoke the EU’s Article 50, which will formally begin the U.K.’s exit from the EU. Two years of negotiations will then take place between the U.K. and EU to replace existing trade deals. The EU has pressured the U.K. to formally begin its exit as early as possible.

The British cabinet will play a vital role in these negotiations that will determine Britain’s future relationship with the EU. May also took the extraordinary step of naming one of the original Euroskeptics in Britain, David Davis, as the U.K. minister responsible for overseeing Brexit.

May is the first female Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher, and will serve as PM until the next general election in May 2020. The Conservative party currently holds a majority of the seats within the U.K.’s parliament, the U.K.’s prime minister is traditionally the head of the majority party in the parliament. May thus became prime minister without holding an early national general election. Some critics have called for another general election to give the conservative party a fresh mandate for leadership through Brexit.

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Saagar Enjeti