Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Johnson sets up 'war cabinet' to deliver Brexit

  • Boris Johnson arriving in Downing Street last week on his first day in the new job. Johnson's government is pushing ahead with no deal (Photo: 10 Downing Street)

UK prime minister Boris Johnson set up a "war cabinet" of six senior ministers over the weekend to make decisions on Brexit, and is also preparing for a no-deal emergency budget, ministers said.

The government in London is working on the assumption that the EU will not renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal, and is preparing to leave the bloc without an agreement, Reuters reported.

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Johnson said last week that unless the EU dumps the Irish backstop part of the deal (an insurance policy negotiated by the UK and the EU to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit), the UK will withdraw its membership without a deal.

Michael Gove, the new minister in charge of no-deal preparations, wrote said that an agreement might not be struck with Brussels by October, when the UK will leave the EU by default, but there was a "new clarity of mission, we will exit the EU on October 31, no 'ifs', no 'buts', no more delay".

He said Johnson's government will make "intensive efforts" to secure a better deal from the EU.

"We still hope they will change their minds, but we must operate on the assumption that they will not ... No deal is now a very real prospect and we must make sure that we are ready," Gove wrote in The Sunday Times newspaper.

Sajid Javid, former MEP and new chancellor, told the Sunday Telegraph there would be "significant extra funding" this week to get Britain "fully ready to leave" the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal.

He added that preparations would include financing Britain's "biggest ever public information campaigns" to prepare business and citizens.

Johnson's so-called "war cabinet", includes Gove, Javid, foreign minister Dominic Raab, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, and attorney general Geoffrey Cox, and will meet every Monday.

The new home secretary, Priti Patel, who is not in the group, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that she would stop the "automatic right of entry for EU citizens, with or without work".

The Sunday Times said that Vote Leave campaign mastermind Dominic Cummings, now a senior advisor to Johnson, told the prime minister's advisers that they have to deliver Brexit "by any means necessary".

The media offensive of ministers over the weekend can also be seen as putting pressure on the EU - as the bloc has so far said there would be no renegotiations of the divorce deal.

Johnson on Monday is heading to Scotland, which voted heavily to remain in the EU, and where his Conservative Party's Scottish leader Ruth Davidson, who is firmly against a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, former finance minister Philip Hammond, who quit last week before Johnson took office, held talks with the opposition Labour party about how to stop a no-deal Brexit, according to media reports.

Over the weekend, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that neither the UK nor the EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

The CBI said that in a no-deal Brexit some 24 of 27 areas of the UK economy would experience disruption, especially smaller companies, which are less well prepared.

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