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Javid quits as Johnson pulls off Treasury 'power grab'

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Drama: Sajid Javid on his way into No 10 Downing Street yesterday before he dramatically quit as Chancellor. Photo: Getty Images

Drama: Sajid Javid on his way into No 10 Downing Street yesterday before he dramatically quit as Chancellor. Photo: Getty Images

Getty images

‘Hostile takeover’: Boris Johnson now has complete control of budget. Photo: PA

‘Hostile takeover’: Boris Johnson now has complete control of budget. Photo: PA

PA

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Drama: Sajid Javid on his way into No 10 Downing Street yesterday before he dramatically quit as Chancellor. Photo: Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday seized control of the Treasury in the biggest political power grab of modern times, sparking the Chancellor's resignation.

Sajid Javid quit the post after being told his entire team of advisers would be sacked and replaced with No 10 appointees in a joint economic unit - an ultimatum he said "no self-respecting minister" could accept.

Mr Johnson and Dominic Cummings, his chief aide, put themselves in total control of the next budget as they annexed No 11 and installed Rishi Sunak (39), a former Goldman Sachs banker, as Chancellor.

The move followed years of frustration among senior Brexiteers who believed the Treasury was seeking to thwart the UK's exit from the EU. In recent weeks, this was compounded by growing alarm over preparations for next month's budget after leaks suggested the Chancellor was considering a new mansion tax and the removal of tax relief for higher earners.

Free-market Conservatives hoped Mr Sunak would use the forthcoming budget to cut taxes and boost enterprise in the wake of Brexit, and clear the way for Mr Johnson's planned spending spree on infrastructure.

However, Mr Javid condemned the plans to rein in the Treasury. In a withering parting shot at Mr Johnson, he suggested the Treasury had lost "credibility" as a result.

On a day of drama in Westminster, No 10 was unable to say whether the budget would still go ahead on March 11, or would have to be postponed following Mr Javid's unexpected departure. Downing Street also refused to say whether the fiscal rules set down by Mr Javid would still apply.

His resignation followed months of tension between No 10 and the Treasury, which began during the Tory leadership contest and included regular clashes over government spending.

Mr Javid was the highest profile and most unexpected casualty as Mr Johnson culled ministers who dissented or underwhelmed, and trimmed the cabinet from 31 to 26 attendees.

Julian Smith, Andrea Leadsom and Geoffrey Cox lost their jobs as Northern Ireland secretary, business secretary and attorney general respectively, after clashing with Mr Johnson.

Mr Cox was replaced by Suella Braverman, a former Brexit minister, a surprise appointment expected to lead a crackdown on the judiciary after attacking "judicial activism" and saying judges were "trespassing" on politics.

Alok Sharma, promoted from international development to Business Secretary, will also take charge of the COP 26 Glasgow climate conference. He was replaced as International Development Secretary by Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Oliver Dowden was promoted from paymaster general to Culture Secretary, replacing the departing Nicky Morgan, while Stephen Barclay, the former Brexit secretary, returned to cabinet as Mr Sunak's replacement as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Ben Wallace held on to his role as Defence Secretary.

By merging No 10 and No 11 advisory teams, Mr Johnson believes he can eliminate the sort of power struggles that blighted the premierships of Theresa May, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher - and pave the way for radical reforms across government. However, the move drew criticism from some Conservatives, as one suggested Mr Javid's departure was "orchestrated" and that Mr Johnson "wants to be his own chancellor". One Whitehall source described it as a "hostile takeover" of the Treasury.

Downing Street sources insisted Mr Javid's resignation had been "a surprise" and that Mr Johnson would have "loved" him to stay on. But Mr Johnson had made it clear that "watertight" co-operation between No 10 and No 11 was essential, necessitating a merger of their teams. All five of Mr Javid's special advisers, including Mats Persson, his chief of staff, were sacked.

Allies of Mr Javid said Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings "want to write the Budget themselves" and wanted him to be Chancellor in name only.

In his resignation letter, Mr Javid warned Mr Johnson: "I would urge you to ensure the Treasury as an institution retains as much credibility as possible." One friend of Mr Javid claimed Mr Sunak, his successor and former deputy, had been "knifing him in the back for six months".

© Daily Telegraph, London

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