On Wednesday 24th July, Boris Johnson officially became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He was immediately faced with the difficult task of forming a government. Who was he going to keep? Who was going to leave? Political commentators were all waiting for the names of cabinet ministers later that evening.
Before Johnson’s arrival at 10 Downing Street, the former Chancellor, Philip Hammond, former Justice Secretary, David Gawke, and International Development Secretary, Rory Stewart, resigned. Two more big surprises came in the departures of Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt, International Trade Secretary and Defence Secretary, respectively.
Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s former rival in the Tory leadership contest is also gone, despite rumours that he wanted to stay Foreign Secretary, or at least have have some sort of top job, such as Home Secretary or Chancellor.
Dominic Raab is now Foreign Secretary and Priti Patel is Home Secretary – she was brought back two years after Theresa May forced her to quit as International Development Secretary for having ‘off-the-record’ meetings with senior Israeli officials during a ‘family holiday’. Jacob Rees-Mogg is also the newly-appointed leader of the House of Commons. It looks like the cabinet is filled with Brexiteers, hinting that the United-Kingdom could be leading towards a No-Deal Brexit.
What is worrying is that Boris Johnson appointed Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary. Williamson was sacked as Defence Secretary by Theresa May, when she claimed that there was “compelling evidence” that he was behind the leak of talks on whether Chinese firm Huawei would help build Britain’s 5G mobile network.
Surprising many is the fact that Johnson’s brother, Jo, was also appointed in his government. A few months ago, Jo Johnson resigned from Theresa May’s cabinet because he wanted a People’s Vote. Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that he wants to leave the EU on the 31st October 2019 no matter what, and he means it. But will he manage to do so with such a tight deadline?
First of all, Parliament is at recess, and only starts up again on September 3rd. The 27 other EU countries have the same time frame. The calendar for Boris Johnson’s Brexit agenda is very tight because of this. A Brexit deadlock has already started, after the new Prime Minister said that he wanted to ‘scrap the backstop.’ Michel Barnier and other EU leaders are vehemently against it. French President Emmanuel Macron is due to meet Boris Johnson in France in a few weeks.
Second of all, Prime Minister Johnson can choose to appoint and fire cabinet ministers, but he can’t change the Parliamentary map. He faces a divided Conservative Party and a very small majority. MPs are against a No-Deal Brexit, too. If Boris Johnson would like to get Brexit delivered by October 31st, he needs to call for a General Election. It is a risky tactic, because with Labour’s ambiguous position on Brexit and a pro Brexit cabinet, the Liberal Democrats could win.
Labour might table a motion of no confidence early in September when recess is finished if Johnson hasn’t found a deal with the EU this summer when he travels to France and Germany. By then, also, around 15-20 Conservative MPs may have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats in rebellion against Boris Johnson. The question lies in whether an early election will be called or not. Right now, it is too early to say, but interesting times lie ahead.