Dominic Raab, a Brexit-supporting minister, has been promoted to replace David Davis as Brexit secretary, No 10 has announced.
Raab was previously housing minister and replaces Davis, who resigned late on Sunday night saying he could no longer support the government’s Brexit policy announced at Chequers last week.
Other names that had been canvassed for the appointment included Michael Gove, the environment secretary, David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary and a May loyalist.
Raab’s appointment was welcomed by one of the cabinet’s most committed Brexiters, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary.
The prime minister is battling to contain a revolt by Brexiters in the Conservative party who are unhappy with the declaration on Friday, in which May signed her cabinet up to a UK-EU free-trade area under a “common rule book” that will match EU standards on food and goods.
May has two vacancies to fill: Raab’s job at housing, and that of Steve Baker, the junior Brexit minister who also quit overnight
A clearly angry Baker said he was unhappy with the way No 10 had tried to bully cabinet ministers into supporting May’s plan last week, with a briefing that ministers resigning at Chequers would have to find their own way home. Baker told the BBC’s Daily Politics he was unhappy with “childish nonsense from No 10” and “furious at the childishness of the briefing”.
May is due to give a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon and meet Tory backbenchers on the 1922 Committee in the early evening. If 48 Conservative MPs send letters to the chairman of the committee, Graham Brady, May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Brady declined to comment on whether he had received any letters calling for a no confidence vote. He said no comment would be made unless and until 48 letters were received.
Raab was one of the first names mentioned when sources briefed ahead of the Chequers meeting that a “talented new generation” of MPs was ready to replace cabinet ministers if they resigned. The chief whip, Julian Smith, is said to have had a meeting with Raab before the summit.
There were complaints, however, about his short, six-month tenure as housing minister. It means his replacement will be the eighth person to hold the junior ministerial position since 2010, when the Conservatives returned to government.
Suella Braverman, another junior Brexit minister, remains in post despite intense speculation that she had joined Davis in resigning.
In an interview a fortnight ago, Raab said he supported a “full-fat Brexit” but “never said there weren’t risks with Brexit”.
“The truth is, there are risks and there are rewards; there are risks and there are opportunities,” he told the House magazine. “So, yes, let’s take the risks seriously. I don’t want to be cavalier about that. But let’s also grasp the opportunities. If we do that and we show a team effort, then this country will go on to bigger, better things.”
Raab’s name has been frequently mentioned by colleagues who believe the Conservative leadership should skip a generation. Although he is a Brexit supporter, he comes from the liberal tradition of the party. However, some of his past comments could come back to haunt him, including branding feminists “obnoxious bigots” in 2011.
Raab was in the news earlier this year when it emerged one of his researchers was selling sex while working for him at the Commons. She also revealed he liked to have the same lunch every day, which she dubbed the “Dominic Raab special” – a chicken caesar and bacon baguette, a superfruit pot and a vitamin volcano smoothie.