Johnson plans next Brexit push, Cabinet reshuffle

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson being greeted by staff at No. 10 Downing Street last Friday, following an audience with Queen Elizabeth. In a speech to Parliament on Thursday, the Queen will lay out the government's domestic agenda and much of i
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson being greeted by staff at No. 10 Downing Street last Friday, following an audience with Queen Elizabeth. In a speech to Parliament on Thursday, the Queen will lay out the government's domestic agenda and much of it will be the same as what was outlined by Mr Johnson's minority administration in October. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British PM to return withdrawal Bill for debate, aims to get it passed before Jan 31

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is finalising his Cabinet and will appoint his top ministers today.

His Conservative government will also return the Withdrawal Agreement Bill for debate in Parliament before Christmas, seeking to get it passed in time for the Jan 31 deadline for Britain to leave the European Union.

British newspapers reported yesterday that Mr Michael Gove will be chosen to spearhead trade negotiations after Britain formally leaves the EU next month.

Asked whether his promise to be a one-nation government meant bringing back Tory politicians such as Ms Penny Mordaunt and Mr Jeremy Hunt - who left the Cabinet in July after Mr Johnson took over - the Prime Minister said yesterday he was "not going to speculate about personalities".

After securing a hefty majority in last Thursday's general election, Mr Johnson is setting out on the first stage of his campaign promise to "get Brexit done".

He has also vowed not to extend the transition period beyond next year, leaving Britain and the EU just 11 months to hammer out an accord.

The newly elected MPs will be sworn in tomorrow, before the Queen formally opens Parliament on Thursday. In a speech, the Queen will lay out the government's domestic agenda and much of it will reprise what was outlined by Mr Johnson's minority administration in October.

A key addition, according to a statement late last Saturday from Downing Street, will be a plan to enact a "multi-year financial commitment" to the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

"This election was as much about delivering on the people's priorities as it was about getting Brexit done - and the Prime Minister understands that," a No. 10 official said.

 
 

"We will deliver on the promises we have made on helping with the cost of living, tackling crime and supporting our NHS."

Thursday's speech to Parliament will be the Queen's second in as many months. She made one on Oct 14, shortly before the election was called, following a prolonged deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.

The October speech laid out 22 new Bills - pieces of proposed legislation - including several covering tougher treatment for foreign criminals and sex offenders.

Regarding Northern Ireland, where the nationalist Sinn Fein made significant advances in the election at the expense of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Mr Johnson wants the parties to resume talks before Christmas on governance in the province. Stormont, Northern Ireland's power-sharing assembly, has been suspended following a bitter row between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

A strong UK is a "vital focus of this government", according to the statement.

Mr Johnson is also planning a major reshuffle in February, after Brexit, in an attempt to move on to the next part of his agenda, according to The Times of London.

 
 

As many as one-third of ministers in his Cabinet could be fired from the top team in the Prime Minister's bid to tackle issues facing working-class voters, the newspaper reported, citing a government source it did not identify.

The planned changes include scrapping the Brexit department, setting up a department for borders and immigration, and rolling the Department for International Trade into the Department for Business, the paper said.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Johnson plans next Brexit push, Cabinet reshuffle'. Print Edition | Subscribe