Britain’s Brexit Cabinet to Steer EU Divorce

Britain’s Brexit Cabinet to Steer EU DivorceBritain’s Brexit Cabinet to Steer EU Divorce

New Prime Minister Theresa May ruthlessly overhauled the British Cabinet on Thursday, sacking a raft of ministers, promoting loyalists and putting supporters of Britain’s exit from the European Union firmly in charge of negotiating its terms.

A day after replacing David Cameron, May told the head of the European Commission that Britain needed time to determine its negotiating strategy, brushing off pressure from European leaders to swiftly launch the two-year official exit process.

Her most contentious appointment is Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, accused by his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault on Thursday of lying to Britons in the run-up to last month’s shock referendum vote to leave the 28-nation EU, Reuters reported.

Johnson, who during the campaign compared the bloc’s aims to those of Hitler and Napoleon, told reporters that despite Brexit, Britain could play an even greater role in Europe.

“There’s a massive difference between leaving the EU and our relations with Europe, which if anything I think are going to be intensified,” he told reporters.

Three weeks after the referendum, May’s new government faces the formidably complex task of extricating Britain from the EU–itself reeling from the shock of Brexit–while trying to protect the economy from feared disruption to confidence, trade and investment.

  Cabinet Clearout

Veteran rightwingers David Davis and Liam Fox-both ardent campaigners for Brexit-have been named as Cabinet secretary for exiting the EU and head of a new international trade department, key positions in the arduous negotiations ahead.

Along with Johnson’s appointment, that means prominent advocates of Brexit will have the main roles negotiating its terms, forcing them to take responsibility for delivering on campaign promises to maintain access to Europe’s free trade area while imposing controls on immigration.

May gave the farming ministry to Andrea Leadsom, another Brexit campaigner who had run against her for the Conservative party leadership. Leadsom will now face the task of determining how farmers will replace lost EU agriculture subsidy income.

On Thursday, May followed up by removing the justice, education, culture and Cabinet office ministers, an unusually high toll of sackings for a British Cabinet shakeup.

Work and pensions minister, Stephen Crabb, who had also sought the prime minister’s job, resigned citing family reasons, days after hitting front pages for allegedly sending flirtatious messages to a young woman despite being married. The Northern Ireland minister also quit.

“Brexiteers” Chris Grayling and Priti Patel won Cabinet jobs in a sign of May’s intent to unite the divided governing body and show that, despite having favored the losing Remain side, she will implement the instructions of the electorate.


  No Hurry

EU countries have pressed Britain to move quickly to initiate the two-year divorce process to lift uncertainty.

May’s spokeswoman said she had spoken by phone to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, explaining that Britain would not be triggering the exit process immediately.

“The prime minister explained that we would need some time to prepare for the negotiations,” the spokeswoman said.

She also spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama, underlining Britain’s commitment to sustaining the countries’ “special relationship” and partnership on intelligence-sharing.