At the despatch box Johnson declared the existing Withdrawal Agreement dead due to its unacceptability in Parliament.
London: Wasting not a minute, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit the ground running with a ready-made Cabinet dedicated to delivering Brexit on 31 October and predicting a new “Golden Age” for Britain. With 18 ministers sacked or resigned the new team sprang into action on Thursday morning. At the despatch box Johnson declared the existing Withdrawal Agreement dead due to its unacceptability in Parliament. He would work “flat out” to get a deal that would not sign away UK’s economic independence and self-government as the Backstop did, and that he would fulfil the promises to leave on 31 October.
The new Cabinet looks like it was assembled on merit, loyalty and past performance. Folks are making much of the diversity and Black-Asian and minority ethnic aspect, but a cursory look at the appointments proves how merit worthy they are. Sajid Javid, the new Chancellor, was the first senior Cabinet member to support Johnson. All through the leadership campaign Javid quietly spoke about rebuilding trust, bridging political and community divides and delivering Brexit. Javid’s visit to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem earlier this month bears testimony to his goodwill; this was the first time in 19 years that a senior British government minister had visited the site. The Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites of Israel, Rabbi Scmuel Rabinowitz said, “Your visit here is evidence that in this small place Jews and Muslims can live together without harming each other.” Javid has worthy credentials for Chancellor. Aged 25, he became a vice-president at Chase Manhattan Bank, moving on to become a managing director at Deutsche Bank in London to help build its business in emerging market countries, until 2009 when he became an MP. Previously, Javid has been a Culture, Business and Home Minister.
Priti Patel, Javid’s successor as Home Minister, has never wavered in her firm commitment to leaving the EU. In 1996, Patel stood as a candidate for Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, the inspiration for UKIP and the Brexit Party. Patel is an articulate admirer of the late Margaret Thatcher. She is also very popular with the Indian diaspora. David Cameron appointed her as the first ever UK-India Diaspore Champion in 2013. A former MoS for International Development, extradition and security become part of Patel’s new domain.
Dominic Raab is Secretary of State for the FCO, replacing Jeremy Hunt. Raab, another absolute Brexiteer is the former Brexit Secretary. A grammar school boy with a degree from Oxford and a Masters from Cambridge he was formerly a solicitor with Linklaters. He has written extensively on civil liberties, equality, discrimination and justice; he has advised on EU/WTO law and has six years’ previous experience working in the Foreign Office. As an MP, Raab’s interests are listed as “civil liberties, meritocracy, business competitiveness, foreign policy” and his countries of interest as “Far East, Latin America, Middle East”. The FCO website lists his additional particular focus on the policy unit, intelligence policy, cyber security and oceans.
Ben Wallace is the Defence Secretary, a former Scots Guard and former Remainer who served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America during the 1990s. In 2003, Wallace joined the aerospace company QinetiQ; he has been Shadow Minister for Scotland 2007, Assistant Government Whip 2014, Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland Office 2015 and Minister of State for Security at the Home Office in 2016, where he was instrumental in criminalising travel to designated areas under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act. Wallace is said to have an informed understanding of Iran from his eight years on the Iran APPG; Wallace’s visit to Iran in 2014, the first visit of a British MP since 2008, was seen as an important step in rebuilding relations. The same challenge awaits him. He believes in small government and that “people and communities should be left alone by Whitehall which too often tries to impose a one size fits all approach to life.”
Alok Sharma is Johnson’s choice for International Development, another former Remainer but with the good credentials of MoS for Work and Pensions, MoS for Communities and Under-Secretary of State in the FCO, his interests have always been finance, trade and industry; previously he was Cameron’s choice for Infrastructure Envoy to India (https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/investigation/3902-sharma-appointed-cameron-s-infrastructure-envoy-india). Before entering politics, Sharma was a chartered accountant, banker and chairman of the Bow Group think tank’s economic affairs committee. Sources say Sharma went the extra mile to comfort and support the survivors of the Grenfell tower block blaze of 2017.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury is Rishi Sunak, a patron of the Conservative Friends of India and former Housing Ministry Under-Secretary of State. Sunak is an Oxford graduate in politics, philosophy and economics and a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University, US. His crucial endorsement of Johnson in the early stages of the campaign was influential. The signs are he is going to be tough with the EU about the £39 million divorce payment and he says the government will not pay if UK is driven to a No-Deal.
James Cleverly as the new Tory Chairman brings to four the number of ministers who have served in the military (others are Ben Wallace, Gavin Williamson and Stephen Barclay). This is a first for the Conservative Party, which has previously not had any ministers with a military background. Cleverly, an original euro-sceptic (https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/world/4722-tory-mp-cleverly-sees-brexit-benefiting-uk-india-and-africa), is well known for his sense of humour and inter-personal skills, it is thought he has what it takes to bring the party back together.
Dominic Cummings, like the PM is similarly a marmite character. Cummings is the special adviser to Johnson. Like Johnson, he is a historian and an intellectual; a political strategist and former campaign director for Vote Leave. His appointment suggests Johnson will be well prepared against the threats of a second referendum or general election, which both the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party are gunning for.