London, Nov 9: Amid flak over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials, Indian-origin International Development Secretary of UK Priti Patel stepped down on Wednesday late night, media reports said.
Patel resigned after being summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after it emerged that she failed to be candid with Prime Minister Theresa May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, business people and a senior lobbyist, the Guardian reported.
Earlier on Wednesday evening, Patel met May for just six minutes.
In her resignation letter, Patel admitted that her actions “fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.
“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.
“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”
Responding to this, May said Patel’s decision was the correct one. She argued in a letter to Patel that the UK and Israel were close allies and should work closely together.
“But that must be done formally, and through official channels. That is why, when we met on Monday, I was glad to accept your apology and welcomed your clarification about your trip to Israel over the summer.
“Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated,” May wrote in the letter.
She added that Patel should “take pride” in what had been achieved during her time in office.
Patel had apologised to May on Monday after news about the unauthorised meetings in August with Israeli politicians including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, came to light, reports the BBC.
But it later emerged she had two further meetings in September without the presence of any government officials.
A replacement for Patel is anticipated to be announced on Thursday.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC: “Priti Patel has been a very good colleague and friend for a long time and a first class secretary of state for international development.
“It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I’m sure she has a great future ahead of her.”
Patel’s resignation from the cabinet is the second in seven days, after Michael Fallon stepped down as Defence Secretary on November 1 amid allegations about his behaviour.
Patel was appointed as Conservative MP for Witham in May 2010. She has served several prominent posts such as Treasury Minister (July 2014 to May 2015), Employment Minister (May 2015 to July 2016) and was elevated as the International Development Secretary in July last year.