Newspaper article International New York Times

May's Lineup Features New Faces but Old Divides ; British Cabinet Could Face Splits over How to Pull out of European Union

Newspaper article International New York Times

May's Lineup Features New Faces but Old Divides ; British Cabinet Could Face Splits over How to Pull out of European Union

Article excerpt

The new prime minister continued to make big changes in her government but could face splits over how to withdraw from the European Union.

Firing adversaries and promoting allies, Prime Minister Theresa May was finalizing a cabinet intended to carry through Britain's withdrawal from the European Union while underscoring her desire to pursue more centrist policies at home.

But her moves to put her mark on the government also highlighted how the referendum on Britain's relationship with the Continent, intended to settle a long-simmering battle within the Conservative Party, left the party still split over how to go about decoupling from Europe.

British politics has been in flux since last month's vote to quit the European Union, followed by leadership battles in both main parties, and finally a change of prime minister when Ms. May took over on Wednesday from David Cameron.

Steady and serious, Ms. May wants to end the turmoil. But on Wednesday, she surprised her own country and many allies by choosing Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and the public face of the campaign to leave the European Union, to be foreign secretary, although he has a long record of impolitic remarks. Despite the criticism that Mr. Johnson's appointment brought, Ms. May apparently judged that it was better to have him as a member of her team than as a free agent outside of it.

On Thursday, Ms. May jettisoned one of the nation's most divisive politicians, Michael Gove, who had been the justice minister. Mr. Gove had worked closely with Mr. Johnson in managing the Leave campaign but then maneuvered Mr. Johnson out of the race to become prime minister, only to see his own effort to secure the job fall short.

Even before Mr. Gove was fired, fault lines were emerging over how to carry out "Brexit," the British exit from the European Union. On Thursday, the new chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who is responsible for economic policy, stressed the importance of securing access to the European Union's single market for Britain's financial services sector and maintaining London's place as a global financial capital. He suggested that the country move quickly to forge a new relationship with Europe to reduce the uncertainty hanging over the economy.

Yet, partly to shield herself from the right of her party, Ms. …

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