By | April 30, 2018

LONDON—U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned following criticism of her handling of an immigration scandal, a departure that risks upsetting a delicate balance on Prime Minister Theresa May’s top team between ministers eager to make a clear break with the European Union and those who favor closer ties.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mrs. May accepted Ms. Rudd’s resignation late Sunday.

Ms. Rudd had come under pressure to quit in recent days after being accused of misleading lawmakers about the existence of Home Office targets for the removal of illegal immigrants.

The furor arose after the pursuit and, in some cases, deportation of members of the so-called Windrush generation, British citizens who arrived from the Caribbean after World War II but who struggled to document their citizenship. The Home Office has pledged to compensate those affected.

In a letter to Mrs. May offering her resignation, Ms. Rudd said she “inadvertently” misled lawmakers over the existence of targets for removing illegal immigrants when giving testimony earlier this month. She said she has since discovered that information regarding targets was provided to her office.

“I should have been aware of this and I take full responsibility for the fact I was not,” Ms. Rudd said.

Ms. Rudd’s resignation means Mrs. May’s government has lost one of its most prominent advocates of maintaining close ties with the EU after Britain’s departure from the bloc in March next year. Ms. Rudd campaigned to maintain the U.K.’s EU membership in the 2016 referendum on withdrawal.

Her departure comes at a critical moment in Brexit negotiations. The government is under pressure from lawmakers to soften its stance on a possible customs deal with the EU that would keep barriers to EU trade to a minimum but restrict the U.K.’s ability to strike trade deals with other countries, such as the U.S.

Already Mrs. May, who lost her parliamentary majority after calling a snap election last summer, is struggling to muster enough support for her plan to exit from the EU’s customs union, which sets common tariffs on goods entering the bloc from third countries.

Ms. Rudd will likely ally herself with a handful of rebels in Mrs. May’s own party who have sided with opposition lawmakers to pressure the government to forge a similar customs arrangement after Brexit, a proposal strongly opposed by pro-Brexit lawmakers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Trade Secretary Liam Fox. The pro-Brexit lawmakers argue that the U.K. can only pursue an independent trade policy by regaining control of tariffs and customs. Parliament is due to vote on future customs arrangements in May.

Ms. Rudd’s departure also means the prime minister herself is likely to come under greater pressure over immigration policy, since she was Ms. Rudd’s predecessor at the Home Office.

“Theresa May must face questions now given these dreadful failures largely took place under her watch as home secretary,” said Ed Davey, a lawmaker for the opposition Liberal Democrats, referring to the treatment of Windrush immigrants.

Write to Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

Appeared in the April 30, 2018, print edition as ‘U.K. Home Secretary Steps Down.’

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