Brokenshire resigns as Northern Ireland Secretary

James Brokenshire quit as Northern Ireland secretary over his health

May backed Brokenshire's decision to step down at "an important moment for politics in Northern Ireland", thanking him for his efforts with a letter in which she urged the parties to re-establish the power-sharing government.

In November, Brokenshire was forced to begin setting a budget for the province, but he said a return to direct rule could still be avoided.

The Staffordshire Moorlands MP - who was brought up in Buxton - moves from her previous role as United Kingdom culture secretary, which she had held since 2016. He led efforts to restore the devolved Northern Irish executive after power-sharing collapsed in 2017.

Despite studious efforts by Brokenshire to be seen as an honest broker, some of the parties said a deal by the DUP a year ago to prop up May's government made this impossible.

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It is the second time she has replaced Mr Brokenshire in the cabinet after inheriting his position as the minister for security in February 2014, a post based in the Home Office - where Theresa May was the secretary of state.

After undergoing several tests, Mr Brokenshire has been informed that he has a lesion in his lung which needs to be removed.

She wished him well with his surgery and said he "leaves the role with a very intimate knowledge of Northern Ireland and I look forward to working with him again in the future".

The 50-year-old father-of-three stepped down this morning, citing a lung condition as the reason.

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The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP is a close ally of Mrs May, having served under her for five years at the Home Office.

It is likely to represent her biggest overhaul of her top team since she appointed her first Cabinet on entering No 10 in 2016. "Business-friendly" was one description, however, beyond that they found it hard to characterise the former immigration minister.

Downing Street sources sought to play down the reports, describing them as "speculation" and "guesswork".

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