ReutersLONDON (Reuters) — British Aid Minister Priti Patel was forced from office on Wednesday over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials after Prime Minister Theresa May sought to reassert her diminished authority as she negotiates Brexit.
Patel, a Brexit campaigner who is popular in the ruling Conservative Party, had to abandon a trip to Africa earlier on Wednesday after being summoned by May to answer questions on more unsanctioned meetings that breached diplomatic protocol.
After a hastily arranged meeting not long after Patel landed in London, May’s office released her minister’s letter of resignation, in which Patel said her conduct in Israel had fallen “below the high standards” required of her post.
“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated,” Patel wrote in the letter to May.
“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”
May responded in a letter, saying: “Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated.”
It was not clear who would replace Patel, who held the meetings during a holiday in Israel earlier this year.
Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organize meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and visits with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians.
It is the second resignation in May’s team in a week, underlining her weakness at a time when she faces the complicated task of unraveling more than 40 years of ties with the European Union and holding a deeply divided party together.
Patel’s meetings with Israeli officials, which May’s office said it was not aware of, and a reported visit to an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights, have increased pressure on the prime minister, who depends on a Northern Irish party in Parliament to pass legislation.Speech