Government loyalist appointed new UK science minister as Brexit woes continue

This article was first published in Nature on 05.12.18

Amid the carnage of Brexit, the UK government has gained a new science minister. Chris Skidmore was appointed on 5 December, succeeding Sam Gyimah, who resigned last week over the direction of Brexit negotiations.

Skidmore takes over responsibility for the universities and science portfolio, a brief divided between the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The post, a junior ministerial position, has had high turnover in recent years: Skidmore is the United Kingdom’s fifth science minister in eight years.

A Conservative member of parliament since 2010, Skidmore studied history at the University of Oxford, and represents a constituency in southwestern England that has strong links to science and innovation: it is home to aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the UK National Composite Centre, a government-funded research institute focused on developing composite materials and technologies. He is also a historian who has written several books on British monarchs.

“Delighted and honoured to have been appointed Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation,” he tweeted.

Skidmore favoured Britain remaining in the European Union in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. But, importantly for embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, Skidmore is regarded as a government loyalist. His voting record demonstrates continuous support for May’s policies, including her stance on Brexit. This might have been a factor in his appointment, because ministers are expected to vote with the government — and he has publicly supported May’s divisive Brexit divorce deal.

Read more on Nature.

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