Johnson forms 'war Cabinet' to plan Brexit

British PM assembles team as key adviser says no-deal exit from EU a very real prospect

Chancellor Sajid Javid says he will overhaul the British Treasury's approach to Brexit.
Chancellor Sajid Javid says he will overhaul the British Treasury's approach to Brexit.

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has formed a "war Cabinet" of six senior ministers to plan for exiting the European Union by Oct 31, as a key adviser said leaving without a deal had become a very real prospect, The Sunday Times reported yesterday.

Mr Johnson's most senior aide, Mr Dominic Cummings, a key leader in the 2016 Brexit campaign, called the advisers to the Prime Minister's residence last Friday night and told them Brexit will happen "by any means necessary", the Times said.

The Times reported that Mr Johnson will make every decision on Brexit policy with a team of just senior ministers - all Brexiters who support no-deal. The group includes Cabinet enforcer Michael Gove, Chancellor Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox.

Mr Cummings said the British PM is prepared to suspend Parliament or hold an election to thwart those who may seek to block a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Gove, a key Johnson ally, writing in the Times, said all agencies will work "flat-out" to prepare to leave without an agreement on the future UK-EU relationship, and he hopes Brussels will reconsider its decision against reopening talks.

"We still hope they will change their minds, but must operate on the assumption that they will not," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Mr Javid told The Sunday Telegraph that he plans to announce spending of around £1 billion (S$1.7 billion) to make sure the country is properly prepared for a possible no-deal Brexit in October.

Mr Javid told the paper he would overhaul the British Treasury's approach to Brexit, starting with "significant extra funding" announcements in the coming days. The extra spending would include financing a major public information campaign for individuals and businesses and adding extra border control forces.


Mr Johnson's efforts to renegotiate the withdrawal deal struck by his predecessor Theresa May have been rejected by EU leaders.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told Mr Johnson last Thursday that the withdrawal agreement - which Parliament has rejected three times - was the "best and only agreement possible". Mr Johnson spoke last Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to change the minds of EU leaders.

Mr Johnson last Saturday reiterated that the Irish backstop portion of the agreement - which he said seeks to divide the United Kingdom - needs to be dropped from the divorce plan before a broader Brexit deal can be reached.

The new leader, in a speech in Manchester, said he was confident a deal could be reached, noting that he had good relations with many European leaders and was "mystified" by reports claiming otherwise.

Separately, Mrs May's former chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond met the opposition Labour Party's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer and they agreed to work on a plan to block leaving the EU without a deal, The Observer reported.

Mr Starmer said Mr Johnson's rise had "spurred more cross-party discussions at high levels involving senior Tories sacked by Johnson".

Mr Hammond quit his post before Mr Johnson took office.



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2019, with the headline 'Johnson forms 'war Cabinet' to plan Brexit'. Subscribe