William Hague
Foreign secretary William Hague (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Reuters

British Foreign Secretary William Hague is resigning, he announced Monday evening.

“Tonight I am standing down as Foreign Secretary after 4 years to serve as Leader of the House of Commons,” he tweeted.

Prime Minister David Cameron praised Hague and said in a statement to the BBC: "He will remain as first secretary of state and my de facto political deputy in the run up to the election -- and it is great to know that he will be a core part of the team working to ensure an outright Conservative victory at the next election.”

Hague was the Tory leader in the 2001 election when it suffered a landslide defeat by Tony Blair's Labour Party.

ITV reports Hague is likely to be replaced by Philip Hammond, the current defense secretary.

Hague is also preparing “to end his political career by retiring as an MP at the next election,” the Guardian reported.

Hague is quitting as part of a broader Cabinet reshuffle, and government sources made it clear he could have stayed on as foreign secretary had he wished, the paper said.

Cameron is expected to promote women and younger men to the Cabinet on the second day of the reshuffle Tuesday to rejuvenate his team before the next general election expected in 2015.

Hague is one of nearly a dozen of “male and pale” ministers “forced out” by Cameron to make way for women, the Mirror tabloid said.

The departure of Hague “stunned” Westminster, where it had been assumed he would remain as foreign secretary until the election, in the Guardian’s view.