Wednesday 21 February 2018

Johnson in, Osborne out as May sets course to quit EU

Boris Johnson Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Boris Johnson Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Peter Dominiczak

Boris Johnson was last night appointed as Britain's foreign secretary as the new prime minister Theresa May reached out to Brexiteers in an attempt to reshape Britain's role in the world.

Just minutes after officially becoming prime minister, Ms May gave Mr Johnson one of the most powerful roles in government and removed George Osborne as chancellor without offering him an alternative job.

In her first address to the nation, Ms May instantly distanced herself from David Cameron's government by vowing not to "entrench the advantages of the fortunate few".

She then entered Number 10 and began a reshuffle, which started with Mr Osborne being told he would not be a part of the government. He was replaced as chancellor of the exchequer by Philip Hammond.

In a surprise move, Ms May then made Mr Johnson foreign secretary, less than two weeks after he had pulled out of the Tory leadership race after Michael Gove had "betrayed" him by running for the post himself.

The new prime minister made David Davis, a prominent Leave campaigner, secretary of state for exiting the European Union.

Dr Liam Fox, another senior Brexit supporter, was made international trade secretary, nearly five years after stepping down as defence secretary during the coalition government.

Amber Rudd, who backed the campaign to stay in the EU, became the new home secretary and will lead the bid to reform Britain's immigration system in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Michael Fallon, an early backer of Ms May for the Tory leadership, remained as defence secretary.

The future of Mr Gove, the current justice secretary and one of Ms May's biggest cabinet opponents, was unclear last night.

The appointment of senior Leave campaigners was welcomed by Tory backbenchers and Eurosceptics, who said it was proof that Ms May, who supported staying in the EU, will stick to her promise that "Brexit means Brexit".

Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader, praised the "inspired choices" and said he was now "more optimistic" that the vote to leave the EU would be implemented.

It had been widely claimed that Mr Osborne, the former chancellor of the exchequer, wanted to continue in government despite anger from Eurosceptic MPs over his conduct during the referendum campaign.

It marks a remarkable fall from grace for Mr Osborne (45), who just months ago had been the clear favourite to succeed Mr Cameron as prime minister.

One Tory minister said that Ms May was in such an unassailable position after she won the Tory leadership unopposed that "she doesn't need him".

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Osborne said: "It's been a privilege to be chancellor these last six years. Others will judge - I hope I've left the economy in a better state than I found it."

Mr Osborne also signalled that he would support Ms May's government when he joins Mr Cameron on the backbenches.

In a second tweet, he said: "Good luck to new prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond - they have my full support in the big challenge that lies ahead."

Ms May's appointment of Mr Hammond (60) means that the two most powerful positions in the new government are still filled by two politicians who fought for Britain to remain in the EU.

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