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Britain's Cameron makes major changes in Cabinet

By Reuters in London | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-16 06:57

British Prime Minister David Cameron pushed through his biggest government shake-up since coming to power in 2010, promoting women and Euroskeptics on Tuesday to senior roles ahead of the national election in May.

In one surprise development, William Hague, Britain's most senior diplomat for the past four years, voluntarily stood down as foreign minister, allowing Cameron to appoint Philip Hammond, the defense minister and a prominent Euroskeptic, to the influential post.

In another, Michael Gove, a long-standing Cameron ally and one of his party's most prominent right-wing ideologues, was sacked as education secretary.

Women will now hold six of the new 23-person Cabinet positions, compared with three of 22 seats before.

Hammond's appointment immediately stoked speculation that Cameron, the leader of the ruling Conservative party, was trying to give his part of the coalition government a more Euroskeptic flavor to please a vociferous wing of his own party and to counter an electoral threat from the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which won European elections in Britain in May.

The choice of Hammond sends a signal to Britain's European allies. In 2013, he said that if the European Union failed to change and failed to agree on new terms for Britain's membership, then he would rather leave the bloc.

In the shake-up, or "reshuffle" as it is traditionally known, Kenneth Clarke, a minister without portfolio and the Conservative government's most pro-EU member, was sacked.

Britain's Cameron makes major changes in Cabinet

Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties if re-elected next year before giving voters a membership referendum.

Cameron appointed Jonathan Hill to become Britain's next European commissioner. Hill, who is not well-known, had previously coordinated the government's business in the upper house of Parliament.

Hill has voted against deeper European integration in the past, but Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the pro-EU junior coalition Liberal Democrats, had to agree to the appointment.

Clegg's aides had previously said he would not approve anyone with overly strong Euroskeptic views.

Junior role for Hague

Hague, the outgoing foreign minister, will assume a secondary that will involve him coordinating the government's business in the lower house of Parliament. He said he will also step down as a member of Parliament in May.

"There is a balance between experience on the one hand and renewal. Parties and governments need renewal, and we are fortunate in our party to have some extremely talented people now coming to the fore, so let's give them their opportunity," Hague said.

(China Daily 07/16/2014 page12)

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