Prime Minister Theresa May will be forced into making another Cabinet reshuffle after the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Sunday evening.
Ms Rudd became the fifth departure from the Cabinet since last year’s snap general election, after admitting she had ‘inadvertently’ misled MPs over the existence of targets for removing illegal immigrants.
The Hastings and Rye MP stepped down the evening before she was due to make a statement in the House of Commons on the targets and illegal migration, as she faced increasing pressure over the handling of the Windrush ‘scandal’.
Her resignation letter – in which she took ‘full responsibility’ for not being aware of the existence of targets – follows the resignations of former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, Priti Patel as international development secretary, Damian Green as first minister and James Brokenshire, who left his role as Northern Ireland secretary on health grounds.
Mrs May said she was ‘very sorry’ to see her successor as home secretary leave the post, while Ms Rudd’s opposite number Diane Abbott said she had ‘done the right thing’.
Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Remainer Ms Rudd could cause Theresa May a headache from the backbenches with her views on Brexit.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: ‘I think here there were some very serious misjudgements and that’s why she’s had to go.
‘I think the fact that Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve, others – very serious, highly respected figures – are out there, ranging freely – I would have thought would be a source of considerable headache to Theresa May and her more Brexit-oriented colleagues.’
Ms Rudd’s decision to stand down will come as a major blow to Mrs May who publicly declared her ‘full confidence’ in her as recently as Friday.
It will also upset the delicate balance within the Cabinet between Leavers and Remainers ahead of a crucial meeting of the Brexit ‘war cabinet’ on Wednesday to discuss Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU.
Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that Mrs May might appoint Remain-backing former education secretary Nicky Morgan to replace Ms Rudd.
‘The Prime Minister has a lot of good and able people she can choose from but there are issues relating to the Brexit balance,’ Mr Rees-Mogg told LBC radio.
‘She may go for someone like Nicky Morgan to maintain the balance in the party.’
Chris Grayling, however, suggested that Ms Rudd did not need to be replaced by another Remainer.
‘We are now a government that is united in wanting to deliver the best outcome for Britain in Brexit,’ the Brexiteer told BBC Radio 4.
‘Okay, we have some debates and discussions about how we get there.
‘But I think what’s most important is she gives the right person this job because it is much more than the Brexit negotiations. It’s about security and it’s about the safety of our citizens.’
Environment Secretary Michael Gove – one of the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers – was being touted as the front runner to replace her at the Home Office, with Sajid Javid also listed as being among the favourites.