News | Published July 25 2019

Boris Johnson unveils new cabinet

New prime minister Boris Johnson undertook a reshuffle of the cabinet on Wednesday during his first day at Number Ten, handing key positions to leading Brexiteers as he reaffirms his desire to leave the EU by October 31.

Johnson told his new cabinet that there is a “momentous task ahead” and made sweeping changes as 17 of Theresa May’s old cabinet resigned or were moved on, including Johnson’s Conservative leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt had been offered an alternative role as defence secretary but turned down the post and will return to the backbenches.

Sajid Javid was appointed chancellor of the exchequer in lieu of the resigned Philip Hammond.

Dominic Raab and Priti Patel have now returned to government having been handed the foreign secretary and home secretary roles respectively.

Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson, who was sacked by Theresa May as defence secretary after allegedly leaking information from the National Security Council, has been handed a cabinet role as education secretary. Damian Hinds departs.

Former Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom also returns as business secretary, taking over from the outgoing Greg Clark.

Two notable departures included pro-Brexit duo Penny Mordaunt and Liam Fox as defence secretary and international trade secretary respectively, who both supported Jeremy Hunt in the leadership contest.

Other departures include Chris Grayling (transport), Rory Stewart (international development), James Brokenshire (housing and communities) and David Gauke (justice).

In the new cabinet, Grant Shapps takes over as transport secretary, Alok Sharma was appointed international development secretary, Robert Jenrick is the new housing and communities secretary and Robert Buckland replaces the resigned David Gauke as secretary of justice.

Former chief whip Julian Smith is also in as Northern Ireland secretary, replacing Karen Bradley.

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, health secretary Matt Hancock and work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd retained their posts.

Michael Gove leaves his role as environment cecretary but remains in the cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Theresa Villiers takes over his former role.

Hardcore Brexiteer and leader of the Eurosceptic European Research Group of Conservative MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been named Leader of the Commons.

Johnson told his new cabinet: “As you all know, we have a momentous task ahead of us, at a pivotal moment in our country's history.

"We are now committed, all of us, to leaving the European Union on October 31 or indeed earlier - no ifs, no buts.

"But we are not going to wait until October 31 to get on with a fantastic new agenda for our country, and that means delivering the priorities of the people.”

Johnson also said it was “wonderful” seeing his “new team assembled”.

Within Johnson’s reshuffle, Sajid Javid has now been elevated to Chancellor of the Exchequer having served as home secretary under Theresa May.

After taking over from David Davis as Brexit secretary under Theresa May before resigning in protest at May’s Brexit deal, Dominic Raab finds himself back in the cabinet as foreign secretary and first secretary of state.

Raab has always supported Johnson’s assertion that Brexit must be done by October 31 with or without a deal.

Priti Patel, who also returns to government, is another staunch Brexiteer who previously served as international development secretary prior to her controversial resignation over unauthorised meetings with the Israeli government.

Patel is known to favour re-opening negotiations with the EU, saying it is in the bloc’s best interests as well as that of the UK. She also supported Johnson in the Conservative leadership contest.

Gavin Williamson may have lost his role in the cabinet under Theresa May after allegedly disclosing confidential information over the role of Huawei in building the UK’s broadband infrastructure, but Johnson has now invited him back into government.

Former Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom is back in the cabinet as business secretary, having lost in the first round of the Conservative leadership contest before giving her support to Johnson.

She quit Theresa May’s cabinet in protest at the former prime minister’s withdrawal agreement and backed Leave in the EU referendum of 2016.

Liam Fox’s replacement as international trade secretary is Liz Truss, another of Johnson’s major supporters in the leadership contest. Truss backed Johnson’s position of leaving no-deal on the table during Brexit negotiations and has previously served the Treasury in May’s cabinet.

Truss has previously assumed the role of environment secretary and was the first female lord chancellor.

New culture secretary Nicky Morgan takes up her position having been a key player in trying to form a compromise with Conservative Brexiteers. She also served as education secretary under David Cameron.

Theresa Villiers, assuming Michael Gove’s old role, is a supporter of Johnson and has served as an MEP. She is a known opponent of the EU’s backstop plan and would be prepared to support a no-deal Brexit.

However, not all of Johnson's appointments have a pro-Brexit history.

Replacing Penny Mordaunt as Defence Secretary is former security minister Ben Wallace, who served in the army for eight years but was a campaigner to remain in the EU, citing security concerns.

Chris Grayling's successor, Grant Shapps, is formerly a Remain supporter. Yet the former international development minister has supported Brexit since the referendum.

Robert Buckland, coming in as justice secretary, also backed Remain in 2016 but has stressed the importance of respecting the outcome of the referendum. He has talked down the idea of a no-deal Brexit previously and favours renegotiating with the EU.

The incoming international development secretary Alok Sharma is a known supporter of Johnson but also supported the Remain campaign three years ago. 

He has since switched stance to support Brexit and it is believed he would back no-deal if it proved impossible to renegotiate with the EU before October 31. Like Johnson, his policy is that the UK must leave by then.

The other former Remainer in the cabinet is new housing and communities secretary, Robert Jenrick. He has, however, been a supporter of the new prime minister for some time, previously saying he is the only individual capable of saving the Conservative party from "existential threat".

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 25 2019

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