Leading Eurosceptic Dominic Raab was today appointed Brexit Secretary after the dramatic resignation of David Davis.
Mr Raab, the former housing minister, was one of the faces of Vote Leave and worked as Mr Davis’ chief of staff before becoming an MP in 2010.
Theresa May has tried to shore up her struggling leadership by appointing a leading Brexiteer to the key position.
Mr Raab, 44, who reportedly is a black belt in karate and is a keen boxer, has been hotly tipped for promotion for some time but missed out on a Cabinet position in the PM’s January reshuffle.
The married father-of-two now faces the formidable challenge of winning over the support of disgruntled Eurosceptics to Mrs May’s ‘third way’ Brexit plans amid widespread fury at them.
And he faces the tough challenge of being dispatched to Brussels to convince EU leaders to throw the PM a lifeline and sign up to her plans.
Tory MP Kit Malthouse MP was today appointed to Mr Raab’s old job as Housing Minister.
Mr Raab, who was elected MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, is a Brexit true believer and his appointment shows that Mrs May is sticking to her rule of appointing a ‘like for like’ minister in her reshuffles.
But while he has been hotly tipped for a Cabinet promotion, he has also sparked controversy since he was elected to Parliament.
In 2011 he hit out at the ‘obnoxious bigotry’ of feminists – and claimed men should be ‘burning their briefs’ in protest.
He said: ‘While we have some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the world, we are blind to some of the most flagrant discrimination – against men.
‘From the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal.
‘Men work longer hours, die earlier, but retire later than women.
‘That won’t be fixed for another seven years.’
His remark prompted a stinging rebuke from the then Home Secretary Mrs May, who issued a withering put down.
She said: ‘We should be trying to get away from gender warfare of equality and the politics of difference as you have said.
‘But I might suggest to you that labelling feminists as obnoxious bigots is not the way forward to do that.’
But whatever ill blood existed between the pair appears to have passed as Mrs May has made him one of her most senior ministers.
And while he is an ardent Brexiteer, Mr Raab does not fit the easy stereotypes which are often thrown at Conservative politicians who campaigned to leave the EU.
He is the son of Jewish Czech refugee who moved to Britain in 1938 – fleeing the march of the Nazis through Europe, and is married to a Brazilian.
And while internal Tory splits on Brexit often spill out into open warfare, Mr Raab – a former Foreign Office official who has advised on the Arab Israeli conflict – sees himself as a more conciliatory figure.
He has worked as an adviser to both Mr Davis and arch Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve.
Speaking to The House magazine last month, he said: ‘I’ve never had a row, a flounce or anything like that with any of my colleagues that have taken a different view.
‘What we’ve got to do as a government and as a parliamentary party and indeed as a country, is show that we are bigger than the sum of our parts.
‘If we take a bit more of that approach, a bit more unity of purpose, we’ll get a great result out of Brexit.
‘We’ll also unite the country, which is what I think most people, whether they voted Leave or Remain, feel that is our responsibility as politicians to do.’
But he also called for Britain to be more self confident in negotiations as the country is ‘a hell of a lot better than that’.
He said: ‘One thing I get nervous about, or anxious, is that we don’t cower in a corner, so fixated on the risk that we look somehow afraid of our own shadow. Britain is a hell of a lot better than that.
‘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 onto bigger, better things.’
The appointment shows that Mrs May is heeding advice to bring in fresh, younger talent to her Cabinet – although it also suggests that domestic policies are being sidelined because of Brexit.
Tory MPs who have urged the PM to put more money and time into domestic policies will he worried about the loss of another housing minister after Housing Secretary Sajid Javid left to become Home Secretary two months ago.
And it could also suggest that she could be contemplating extending the EU transition period – something which many Tory MPs are dead set against.
In an interview with the BBC recently, Mr Raab hinted that he could back a delay. He said: ‘If the bridge is a bit rocky or takes a bit more or less time, that’s one thing.
‘What we want to know is in the end we get there and we’ve got control over our laws, our borders, and our money.’
Mr Raab’s appointment comes after Mr Davis sensationally quit the Cabinet late last night saying he could not back the PM’s ‘weak’ Brexit plan.
He tore into Mrs May’s so-called ‘third way’ Brexit proposal, which received sign-off at a stormy summit at Chequers on Friday.
Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme, Mr Davis warned the proposal will leave Britain tied to Brussels and encourage Eurocrats to demand more concessions.
He said: ‘They’ll take what we offer already and then demand some more. That’s what I fear.
‘We’re giving too much away, too easily, and that to me is a very dangerous strategy.’
Mrs May is facing the biggest threat to her leadership since last year’s General Election disaster after the dramatic exit.