24 July 2019

Boris Johnson becomes new Conservative leader

Boris Johnson was elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party yesterday, after receiving 92,153 votes (66%) from the party’s members. The other contender, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, received 46,656 votes (34%), on an overall turnout of 87.4%.

Theresa May will take part in her final Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons today, before resigning as Prime Minister to make way for Johnson this afternoon. Johnson will deliver his first speech as Prime Minister at 4PM and is then expected to appoint his new Cabinet of ministers this evening. Government Whip Mark Spencer has been appointed Chief Whip, while former International Development Secretary Priti Patel and Employment Minister Alok Sharma will reportedly join the Cabinet. The Daily Telegraph reports that Johnson’s former special adviser David Frost will be the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser.

Elsewhere, a new YouGov poll reveals that 34% of the public believe Johnson would make the best Prime Minister, with 20% choosing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and 42% saying they do not know.

Meanwhile, Corbyn said yesterday that his party would put forward a motion of no confidence in Johnson’s Government, but that this would be “at a time of our choosing.” The HuffPost UK reports that Labour would trigger a no confidence vote after the summer recess, which begins tomorrow.

Open Europe’s Henry Newman told BBC One yesterday, “We will know pretty quickly if [Johnson’s] prime ministership will be a success or not…The Conservative Party is only just hanging on to power in Parliament and also facing a dual threat: on one hand, a group of MPs are willing to bring down the Government if they don’t deliver Brexit by 31 October…and on the other hand, a group of MPs who are ready to do anything to stop a No Deal Brexit.” Newman also appeared before the House of Lords European Union select committee to discuss the state of Brexit negotiations.

Source: The Guardian The Daily Telegraph I The Daily Telegraph II YouGov ITV HuffPost UK Open Europe UK Parliament

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Michel Barnier: EU ready to work "constructively" with Johnson to deliver orderly Brexit

Commenting on the election of Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU looks forward “to working constructively [with Johnson] when he takes office, to facilitate the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit,” adding, “We are ready also to rework the agreed [Political] Declaration on a new partnership in line with [European Council] guidelines.”

Elsewhere, the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group will hold an extraordinary meeting with Barnier today to respond to Johnson’s election, the EP’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt announced.

The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, said he looked forward “to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations.” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Ireland “will work constructively with [Johnson] and his Government to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit.”

Meanwhile, the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said that the current Withdrawal Agreement “is the best possible solution in a very complicated situation. It does justice to both the position of the EU and the United Kingdom and I would hope we can continue to work on the basis of that assumption.”

Separately, the Commission’s President-Elect, Ursula von der Leyen, said, “It is important to build up a strong working relationship because we have a duty to deliver something which is good for the people in Europe and the United Kingdom.”

Open Europe’s Henry Newman told the House of Lords EU select committee yesterday, “There are discussions happening inside the Commission team about the possibility of surgical changes to the Withdrawal Agreement itself. It’s not necessarily saying they are about to make those offers but they would clearly try to work out what could be done in that direction – there is some interest in giving the new Prime Minister a proper hearing.”

Source: The Guardian Guy Verhofstadt Leo Varadkar Reuters The Daily Express

DUP leader: Confidence and Supply Agreement with Conservative Party remains in place

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, issued a statement yesterday welcoming Boris Johnson’s election as leader of the Conservative Party. Foster said she had spoken to Johnson and confirmed that the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the two parties remained in place. She also said that a review of the Agreement would take place “over the coming weeks and will explore the policy priorities of both parties for the next Parliamentary session.” This comes as the Vice President of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill, said, “Brexit will be catastrophic for this island,” adding, “Boris Johnson needs to wake up from his fairytale.”

Meanwhile, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon, said that she had “concerns” about the prospect of Johnson’s premiership, adding that the Scottish Government would be “at the forefront of all and any moves to stop Brexit and block a No Deal Brexit, as will SNP MPs in the House of Commons.”

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said that Johnson had “an enormous task ahead of him,” and said her priority “is to ensure that he will deliver for Scotland within the UK, stop Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to take us back to a second independence referendum, and prevent Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn from getting into Number Ten.”

Source: BBC Sinn Fein The Guardian Ruth Davidson

Hammond, Gauke and Stewart to resign from the Cabinet today

At least three Cabinet ministers – Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart – are expected to resign today before Boris Johnson takes over from Theresa May as Prime Minister. Hammond previously announced at the weekend that he would resign after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Gauke and Stewart yesterday congratulated Johnson on his victory, but said they would be returning to the backbenches.

This comes as another Conservative MP, Anne Milton, resigned from her position as a junior minister in the Department of Education yesterday morning, ahead of the announcement of the results of the leadership contest. In a letter to Theresa May, Milton said, “I have always believed that our departure from the European Union should be centred around future cooperation… I have grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal, and so I feel it is time for me to return to the backbenches.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph David Gauke Rory Stewart Anne Milton

Business leaders urge new PM to provide certainty

Responding to Boris Johnson’s election as Conservative Party leader yesterday, the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn, issued a statement saying, “On Brexit, the new Prime Minister must not underestimate the benefits of a good deal. It will unlock new investment and confidence in factories and boardrooms across the country. Business will back you across Europe to help get there.”

Meanwhile the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said, “Companies need to know, in concrete terms, what [Johnson’s] Government will do to avoid a messy, disorderly Brexit on the 31st of October – which would bring pain to communities across the UK and disruption to our trade around the world.”

Source: The Guardian British Chambers of Commerce

IMF: No Deal Brexit is one of biggest threats to the global economy

In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday said that a potential No Deal Brexit is one of the biggest risks to the global economy, alongside protectionist US trade policies. The IMF said, “The principal risk factor to the global economy is that adverse developments — including further US-China tariffs, US auto tariffs or a No Deal Brexit — sap confidence, weaken investment, dislocate local supply chains and severely slow global growth below the baseline.”

Separately, Channel Tunnel operator Getlink yesterday said that a No Deal Brexit was “becoming very likely” and that it had revised its expected annual profits downward as a result, from €575m (which assumed a negotiated exit) to €560m. The No Deal estimate assumes that the UK and EU put in “efficient” border controls that do not result in “disruptions.”

Source: Financial Times The Guardian

Pedro Sánchez loses first parliamentary vote to be confirmed as Spanish PM

The leader of the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) and interim Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, was not confirmed as Prime Minister in a parliamentary vote yesterday. He received 124 votes, short of the absolute majority of 176 that was required, with 170 voting against and 52 abstaining. This follows days of coalition negotiations with the left-wing Podemos party, which abstained in yesterday’s vote. Another vote will be held tomorrow, in which Sánchez will require a simple majority to be appointed.

Source: Politico Reuters

French Parliament gives green light to Canada-EU free trade agreement

The French National Assembly yesterday ratified the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), with 266 members voting for the deal and 213 voting against. The CETA is currently applied provisionally, and still needs to be ratified by the national legislatures of 14 EU member states.

Source: France 24