LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Wednesday 24 July 2019

It was never in doubt. Boris Johnson will make his way to Buckingham Palace this afternoon to be formally appointed prime minister. On her way out will be Theresa May, having tendered her resignation. Finally we will have a Brexiteer at Number 10, more than three years after the historic referendum.

Johnson will this evening announce several cabinet appointments. The top story on Westmonster this morning is Priti Patel’s rumoured promotion to the cabinet after doing such a splendid job of backing Boris throughout his leadership campaign. Patel is one of only a few Tory MPs to vote down May’s deal all three times. She is expected to form a contingent of Brexiteers making up two-thirds of the cabinet.

The BBC also report Vote Leave’s former chief, Dominic Cummings will be a senior adviser, hinting at a massive shakeup in policy going way beyond Brexit. Cummings is also a long-time ally of Michael Gove, which would suggest the environment secretary will feature big in Boris’s plans. A promotion is rumoured.

So far so good from a Brexit point of view, but the Huffington Post (large pinch of salt recommended) has spoken to pro-Remain Tory MPs – allies of the ‘Gaukeward squad’, led by Philip Hammond and David Gauke who will join May in resigning today – want Boris to “shaft” the ERG and bin the No Deal pledge, and instead rebrand the EU Withdrawal Agreement as the “Boris deal”.

“He’s got to shaft somebody and most of us are hoping he shafts Baker, because he’s perhaps the only person who can.”

Another says: “The only way we burst through this is to throw the political equivalent of an SAS stun grenade in and see whether Boris can blind everyone, possibly use his authority to quieten down the ERG and get something through.”

The fear Boris will drop his commitments and finish what May started (see Michel Barnier tweet below) will linger for a good while yet. Boris voted for the deal at the third vote lest we forget. But it’s hard to imagine a cabinet with Priti Patel in it going down that path, not one with Dominic Cummings at the centre of Boris’s heavily delegated style of governing either. Indeed, as one pro-Brexit Tory MP put it to Newsnight yesterday: “We’ve got him trapped. He can’t walk away now.”

Barnier was joined by recently selected EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who delusionally repeated her earlier offer of another extension, adding the usual guff about building a good working relationship:

“There are many different and difficult topics to tackle together. There are challenging times ahead of us. I think it is very important to build up a strong and a good working relation because we have the duty to deliver something that is good for people in Europe and in the United Kingdom.”

Contrast that with the sincere warmth of President Trump’s tweet (see below). You just know they are going to strike a fantastic working relationship immediately.

As for the top jobs, The Sun reports Sajid Javid’s entourage are “confident” he’s headed for Number 11. That’s no great surprise, Javid is more of a pragmatist than fellow contenders, Liz Truss and Matt Hancock, both of whom have big visions for Britain. But that’s not what we’ll need in the event of No Deal, but someone who knows what leavers to pull. Javid is a former investment banker and more senior than Truss and Hancock. He is seen to have the profile that fits.

Hancock, a great white hope of Remainers to balance out Boris, is currently running his transition team and this morning ruled out an election any time soon. He is tipped for deputy PM.

The Sun also report Boris plans to assert his authority early doors by demoting Jeremy Hunt, who only secured 34% of the vote share among the Tory grassroots in the final round of the leadership election, 46,656 votes to Johnson’s whopping 92,153. Defence secretary has been offered, but wants to stay where he is at the Foreign Office.

Finally, following on from yesterday’s edition of Brexit Brunch, Nigel Farage said there was a “possibility” of an electoral pact with the Tories, adding as a caveat, “I don’t believe a single word the Conservative Party tell us.”

We’re willing to give Boris the benefit of the doubt. Nominating a Brexit cabinet would help reinforce that trust.

Brexit Brunch signs off for the summer this Friday, returning when Parliament resumes in early September.