UK Politics

Theresa May chairs first cabinet meeting as PM

Theresa May's cabinet Image copyright Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired the first meeting of her new cabinet.

Mrs May told her ministers she did not want the UK to be "defined by Brexit", but to "build the education, skills, and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU".

Chancellor Philip Hammond updated cabinet on the post-referendum economy.

Only a handful of the 27 members of Mrs May's top team are in the same jobs as under David Cameron.

Others are in the cabinet for the first time.

During the 90-minute cabinet meeting Mrs May repeated her call, made on the steps of Downing Street, for the government to focus on the interests of working people and not just "the privileged few".

She told ministers they all had a duty to make a success of Brexit - and that it was not just the responsibility of those directly involved in the negotiations.

The cabinet was told to "get to it and get on with the job" and that "politics is not a game" as she insisted quitting the European Union presented a "huge opportunity".

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Image caption Boris Johnson is the foreign secretary in Theresa May's government
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Image caption Mrs May told ministers she did not want the UK to be defined by Brexit
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Image caption David Davis attended cabinet as the new Brexit secretary
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Image caption Priti Patel is the new international development secretary
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Image caption James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary
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Image caption Philip Hammond, the new chancellor joined the meeting
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Image caption Theresa May's successor as home secretary is Amber Rudd
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Image caption Mrs May's former leadership rival, Andrea Leadsom, is environment secretary
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Image caption Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Commons Leader David Lidington and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling arrive in Downing Street

It was also revealed Mrs May would chair three new Cabinet committees - on the economy and industrial strategy, exiting the European Union and international trade, and social reform.

The new PM has fundamentally reshaped the government since entering Downing Street less than a week ago, getting rid of a host of senior figures such as Mr Osborne, Michael Gove and Oliver Letwin who were key allies of Mr Cameron.

Of the 22 full members of the cabinet and five who have the right to attend, only five - Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Attorney General Jeremy Wright - retained the roles they held previously.

Key appointments included Philip Hammond as chancellor of the exchequer, Amber Rudd as home secretary and Justine Greening as education secretary while David Davis was put in day-to-day charge of the process of taking the UK out of the EU.

Labour's Jon Ashworth said: "Changing the faces at the top of the Tory Party will do nothing for working people let down by this government. We need a change of direction to put ordinary people first."

Mrs May, who has already held talks with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, received a boost on Monday when MPs overwhelmingly voted by a majority of 355 to proceed with the full renewal of the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system.

The prime minister will face her first Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, after which she will travel to Germany for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On Thursday, she will meet French President Francois Hollande.

Mrs May has said she does not expect the UK to officially notify the EU of its intention to leave before the end of the year, while making it clear there can be no going back on last month's referendum result.

She is under pressure from some EU countries to trigger Article 50 - the first step in the formal legal process of leaving - as early as possible, with some EU officials suggesting there can be no official negotiations before this happens.

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Image caption Boris Johnson's appointment has received a mixed reception in European capitals

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will emphasise the UK's determination to continue playing a major role on the global stage, despite the vote to leave the EU, by holding a series of high-profile meetings in London.

The former mayor of London has been holding talks with US counterpart John Kerry later before going to Washington on Thursday to discuss the threat posed by so-called Islamic State and other Islamist militant groups.

He will also meet foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria and Yemen and diplomatic efforts to bring the long-running conflicts in both countries to an end.

"We must be more active, more engaged and more outward-looking so I am delighted to have this early opportunity to welcome my international counterparts to London for important meetings on the conflicts in Syria and Yemen," Mr Johnson said.

On Monday, after attending his first EU meeting in Brussels, Mr Johnson said the UK's exit from the 28-nation organisation did not mean it would be leaving Europe or "abandoning" its friends.

Former chancellor George Osborne, meanwhile, has given his full backing to the new prime minister and Mr Hammond while urging them to maintain the "closest possible" ties with European partners on the economy and security.

"She (Theresa May) has the strength and the integrity to do the job, as she faces up to the great challenge that lies ahead," he told a think tank in central London.

"We have been - and we should always remain, in my view - a global power: interested in shaping the world rather than being shaped by it.

"As we negotiate our exit from the EU, I hope we seek the closest possible new ties with our European neighbours. They are, on the economy and on security, our friends not our foes."

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