UK’s Northern Ireland minister quits as May shuffles Cabinet

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May started the new political year Monday with a Cabinet shakeup, hoping to reenergize her government as negotiations on Britain’s divorce from the European Union enter a crucial new phase.

But May, who heads a minority government divided over Brexit, had only limited room for change.

The most senior government ministers — including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and Treasury chief Philip Hammond — all kept their jobs. So did Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a frequent target of criticism over failings in the state-funded National Health Service.

May’s decision to keep them in post is in part a reflection of her need to balance Brexit-backing ministers like Johnson and Davis with more pro-EU politicians such as Hammond and Rudd.


While Brexit divisions have restricted May’s room for maneuvering, she is looking to make her Conservative government more representative of Britain by promoting more women, people from ethnic minorities, and recently elected lawmakers to leadership posts.

Her shuffle was complicated by the resignation of the United Kingdom’s minister for Northern Ireland amid a long-running political crisis in Belfast. James Brokenshire said he was quitting because he is about to have surgery for a lesion on his lung and will need time to recover.

In a letter to May, Brokenshire said the operation meant he would not ‘‘be able to give the effort, energy, and complete focus needed at this important time.’’ He was replaced by Karen Bradley, who moved from the sports and culture department.