25 July 2019

Boris Johnson takes office as UK Prime Minister and reshuffles Cabinet

The leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, took office as Prime Minister yesterday following an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, Johnson said that his mission was to “restore trust in our democracy” and to “fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts.”

On the subject of a No Deal Brexit, Johnson said it was “vital… that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate,” and added that it was important to prepare “to come out of the EU customs union and out of regulatory control.” He announced that his Government would prepare an “economic package” in the autumn in time for Brexit.

Johnson appointed his new Cabinet last night and is chairing the first meeting this morning. 17 ministers from Theresa May’s Government, including Penny Mordaunt, Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt, either were sacked, resigned or retired. The Minister for Cabinet Office is now Michael Gove, who will also be responsible for No Deal Brexit planning. Sajid Javid is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, Priti Patel Home Secretary and Dominic Raab the new Foreign Secretary. The new Cabinet also includes Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary, Liz Truss as International Trade Secretary, Andrea Leadsom as Business Secretary, and Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House of Commons. Johnson is due to address MPs in the House of Commons at 11:30AM, the final day before the House rises for the summer recess until 2 September.

Meanwhile, Dominic Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign, was appointed Senior Adviser to Boris Johnson. Speaking on the BBC’s Brexitcast podcast last night, Open Europe’s Henry Newman said bringing Dominic Cummings into Whitehall is “exactly what Boris Johnson should be doing.” He added that Cummings is “much maligned often by people who don’t know him very well…. He clearly does divide opinion but he is a pragmatist.” Newman continued, “[Cummings] is very analytical, assembles a good team around him, decides what he’s going to do and is then very determined in getting that done… Having someone who will help the Prime Minister grip the tiller of the ship of state is a good thing.”

Separately, speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Newman said, “We now have a situation where Government is truly getting to grips with what they can do unilaterally to prepare for No Deal.” Open Europe’s David Shiels told TRT World, “Johnson is taking over after a period of months of stalemate on Brexit. He has been chosen by the Conservative Party to lead them because he offers clarity on that subject.” Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh told Al Jazeera English, “Any path [Boris Johnson] takes faces huge constraints in terms of both what the EU will agree to and what Parliament will agree to. He might say that he’s going to leave the EU on 31 October ‘do or die,’ but fundamentally that’s not an issue entirely in his gift.”

Source: Buckingham Palace ConservativeHome The Daily Telegraph BBC Henry Newman Open Europe Dominic Walsh

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Irish PM says whole new Brexit deal "is not going to happen"

Responding to the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and his first speech, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Johnson’s message was “clear-cut but certainly not detailed,” adding, “I got the impression that [Johnson] wasn’t just talking about deleting the [Irish] backstop, he was talking about a whole new [Brexit] deal, a better deal for Britain. That is not going to happen… And even if we were changing the negotiating guidelines, we wouldn’t be changing until [the European Council summit in October]. So any suggestion that there can be a whole new deal negotiated in weeks or months is totally not in the real world.”

This came after Johnson said he was “convinced” that he could conclude a Brexit deal with the EU, and that Brexit could take place “without checks at the Irish border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks.” He also that any deal would be “without that anti-democratic backstop.”

Elsewhere, the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group (BSG) has issued a statement saying it “reaffirmed its commitment to the Withdrawal Agreement. It noted that the UK Government, pursuant to European Council Decision (EU) 2019/584, has agreed that the Agreement cannot be reopened,” adding, “The BSG is open, however, to consider changes to the Political Declaration, in particular if such changes provided for much greater detail and a more ambitious future EU-UK partnership such that deployment of the Irish backstop would not be necessary.”

Separately, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said, “We look forward to hearing what the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wants, what are the choices of the UK,” adding, “A No Deal Brexit will never be, never, the choice of the EU. But we are prepared. And for an orderly Brexit we will work along the next few weeks and months with the new UK Government in the best possible way in a very constructive spirit to facilitate the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Source: The Irish Times European Parliament The Guardian

YouGov Poll: Conservatives maintain narrow lead

A new YouGov poll for The Times conducted after Boris Johnson’s election as Conservative Party leader put the Conservatives in the lead on 25 points, the Liberal Democrats on 23, Labour on 19 and the Brexit Party on 17. It also found that 25 per cent of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2017 said they would now vote for the Brexit Party, down from 30 per cent the previous week. The poll also showed Johnson leading Jeremy Corbyn in the “best Prime Minister” category by 38 per cent to 20 per cent.

Source: The Times

EU Commission proposes governance framework for Eurozone budget instrument

The European Commission yesterday presented a governance framework for the Eurozone’s Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness, which will “help euro area member states … to enhance the resilience of their economies and of the euro area through support to targeted reforms and investment.” The Commission suggested that the Council of the EU sets “strategic orientations on reforms and investment priorities for the euro area as a whole,” and that it adopts “a Recommendation with country-specific guidance addressed to each euro area member state on reforms and investment to be supported under the instrument.” Commissioner for the Euro, Valdis Dombrovskis, said, “Supporting coherent reforms and investment packages will help increase competitiveness, strengthen resilience and enhance convergence, ultimately leading to a more prosperous and stronger Europe.”

Source: EU Commission

Pieter Cleppe: EU leaders must not treat Boris as a joke – they desperately need to strike a deal

Commenting on the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in an article for the Telegraph, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe writes, “Boris can be pragmatic, but those in the EU who therefore assume he’ll simply ditch all of his promises will be badly mistaken…. European leaders must not confuse his sense of humour for him being some sort of joke character whose convictions are only skin deep. They need to recognise in him a serious negotiating partner and set about finding ways to work with him to do a deal.”