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Leave supporter Villiers is now tipped for promotion

By Noel McAdam

Theresa Villiers could be in line for promotion in the next Westminster Government.

The Secretary of State gambled her Cabinet position after opposing David Cameron over the EU referendum.

Now in career terms her backing for a UK exit appears likely to pay off.

Mrs Villiers was a staunch supporter of the Brexit campaign from an early stage and solidly held her position despite strong criticism that it was incompatible with her role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

She lined up alongside her predecessor as Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, who headed up the leave campaign long before Boris Johnson and Michael Gove took the lead.

Now she is viewed as a potential star of the next Cabinet after David Cameron stands down in the run-up to the autumn Conservative conference.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP both doubted whether Mrs Villiers could remain in her post - and warned her stand was putting the country's £1.6bn trade with the Irish Republic at risk.

Mrs Villiers herself said yesterday it was "truly shocking" that Mr Cameron had decided to stand down.

"I would very much have preferred David Cameron to be steering this country through the next few years," she said. "I entirely respect his decision but I think it is a sad day for the country that he has decided to stand down."

But Mrs Villiers yesterday denied she could be a candidate to replace Mr Cameron.

Asked by Sky News, "Will you throw your hat into the ring?" she replied: "No."

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