After a week of controversy, Britain’s International Development Minister Priti Patel resigned from the cabinet on Thursday morning over her undisclosed and unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians when she was vacationing in Israel in August.
Patel’s resignation came after she met Prime Minister Theresa May at at Downing Street.
The Indian-origin politician is said to have apologised in her resignation letter.
The minister said that her actions “fell below the standards of transparency and openness” that she had promoted and advocated.
Patel’s position had become increasingly untenable after it emerged that she had two more meetings with Israeli officials that were not disclosed through the proper procedure.
Patel is alleged to have had a dozen undisclosed meetings with Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The 45-year-old was elected as a Conservative MP for Witham in Essex in 2010 and gained prominence in the then David Cameron-led Tory government as his ‘Indian Diaspora Champion’. Her exit from the Cabinet marks an abrupt halt to her the meteoric rise.
Patel was among the most vocal supporters of Brexit and had steered the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum in favour of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).
Patel expected the storm around her undisclosed meetings in Israel to die down after a formal apology before she flew out to Africa for an official tour of Uganda and Ethiopia on Wednesday. But she was unable to attend any of the scheduled meetings as she was ordered to abandon the visit and fly back to London today “at the request of the prime minister”.
Earlier this week, Downing Street had said that May had accepted Patel’s apology over a series of meetings while she was on holiday in Israel in August without reporting them to the Foreign Office.
But new revelations of further meetings with Israeli officials following that visit had made Patel’s position within the Cabinet very precarious.
It is understood that she met Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan in the UK Parliament complex in early September and an Israeli foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York later that month.
The British premier was reportedly told about the unreported New York meeting during Patel’s apology conversation at Downing Street on Monday but only learned about her unreported meeting with Erdan after the talks.
Ministers are required to tell the UK Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas, but it emerged that British diplomats in Israel were not informed about any of Patel’s meetings, which included a meeting with Netanyahu and other political figures as well as charity organisations.
Opposition parties had been calling for Patel’s resignation as minister in charge of DfID and the country’s aid budget if it emerged that she had breached the ministerial code of conduct and failed to follow established protocol.
In her apology statement on Monday, Patel had attributed the unreported meetings to “enthusiasm”.
“In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it,” she said.
(With inputs from PTI)