Sajid Javid abruptly quit as UK chancellor on Thursday after a brutal power struggle with prime minister Boris Johnson and his top adviser Dominic Cummings over how to manage the country’s finances in the aftermath of Brexit.
His sudden departure, only eight months into the job, disrupts plans for the Budget on March 11.
Mr Javid was immediately replaced by Rishi Sunak, a close ally of the prime minister who accepted Mr Johnson’s plan to take control of the chancellor’s office.
Mr Javid met the prime minister for an hour on Thursday morning and refused his demand to sack his team of advisers, according to Whitehall officials. The chancellor’s team had been engaged in a briefing war with Downing Street in recent weeks over who will be responsible for writing the Budget.
Mr Javid, who has never presented a Budget, is the first chancellor to quit over a disagreement with Downing Street since Nigel Lawson in 1989.
Mr Sunak, the 39-year-old Treasury chief secretary who stood in for Mr Johnson in television debates during the general election campaign, has accepted that the Budget will be drafted by advisers from both the prime minister’s team and the Treasury.
Mr Johnson had intended for his first cabinet reshuffle to be “moderate”, according to Downing Street insiders, but his decision to confront Mr Javid has backfired.
The prime minister earlier sacked Julian Smith as Northern Ireland secretary and Andrea Leadsom as business secretary in the first moves of his ministerial reshuffle, which is expected to promote a significant number of women in the government.
Alok Sharma, former international development secretary, has replaced Mrs Leadsom at the Department for Business. He has also been given responsibility for the upcoming COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow. In turn, Mr Sharma has been replaced at the Department for International Development by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, previously the armed forces minister.
Oliver Dowden, previously the Cabinet Office minister, has replaced Nicky Morgan, who announced before the reshuffle she intended to leave government, as the new culture secretary. His previous responsibilities will be taken up by Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Mr Johnson fired several other prominent ministers: environment secretary Theresa Villiers was replaced by George Eustice, previously a junior minister in the same department, and attorney-general Geoffrey Cox was replaced by prominent Brexiter campaigner Suella Braverman. Housing minister Esther McVey was also sacked.
Mr Smith, who was widely praised for restoring the devolved Northern Ireland government at Stormont last month, was criticised by Downing Street insiders who were unhappy about aspects of the power-sharing agreement, which involved an investigation into murders during the Troubles.
Other ministers leaving the government include universities and science minister Chris Skidmore, and transport ministers Nusrat Ghani and George Freeman.