After Parliament successfully ended May’s hopes of securing her version of Brexit, Britain now has a new Prime Minister and a new government, all with less than 95 days to go until the UK is due to leave the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle has been characterised as brutal, but what does the new Cabinet mean for the UK’s departure from the European Union? The PM has appointed a no-deal Cabinet, says Thomas Eason (University of Nottingham).
Looking first at the Prime Minister himself, Johnson has said that he wants the UK to leave the EU with a newly negotiated Withdrawal Agreement. However, if a new deal cannot be obtained, his preference is for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019. Unfortunately for Johnson, the prospects of negotiating a new deal are slim. Not long after he took office the EU quickly stated that it would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. Johnson’s preference for a newly negotiated deal is, therefore, a unicorn – it is promised but cannot be achieved. This leaves him with 3 credible options. He can try to get May’s deal through Parliament again, he can cancel Brexit and keep the UK in the EU, or he can opt for no-deal. His rhetoric clearly suggests the latter is his preference, and so too do some of his key Cabinet appointments.
Starting first with the appointment of the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, one could be mistaken for thinking continuity is Johnson’s plan. Barclay served as Brexit secretary under Thresa May, making him one of the few secretaries of state not to be purged from the Cabinet. However, while serving under May, he did not have altogether that much power over the Brexit process. This was because the Prime Minister chose to handle many of the negotiations herself. Indeed, Barclay’s input seemed to be limited to managing no-deal preparations. These have since been handed over to Michael Gove, thus begging the question, what will Barclay be doing as Brexit Secretary now? Well, The Department for Exiting the European Union’s website claims that the department is responsible for overseeing Brexit negotiations, and it is very likely that the machinery of the department is doing just that. As before, Barclay’s role in negotiations will ultimately depend upon how active the Prime Minister chooses to be, but his control over the department will ensure that his voice is heard by both his colleagues around the Cabinet table and the EU, and his position seems to be the same as Johnson’s. Barclay believes that if a new deal cannot be reached, crashing out of the EU under no-deal is the next best option. Since we know the EU is unwilling to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, no-deal is apparently the Brexit Secretary’s first choice.
Next then is Michael Gove. Gove has been appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, an obscure post that many have been forced to look up. As suggested above, he has been given control of the Cabinet Office and no-deal preparations. The Cabinet Office is responsible for coordinating government policy across departments, and since a no-deal Brexit would impact all areas of government policy, giving it control over no-deal preparations is probably a wise move. Ultimately then no-deal preparations are Gove’s responsibility, and since taking up his new position Gove has claimed that no-deal is now “assumed” by the government. Gove himself was famously one of the key faces of Vote Leave, meaning few can question his commitment to leaving the EU.
Taking the job of Secretary of State for International Trade in Liz Truss. In this role, Truss will be responsible for promoting British trade and securing new trade deals around the globe, a key part of the discursively constructed “Global Britain” image. When it comes to Brexit, Truss is one of those MPs that had a sharp change of opinion. During the referendum, Truss voted Remain. However, she has since become a very staunch Brexiter, claiming that if a deal cannot be secured, leaving the EU without a deal is the preferable option. Based on her current discourse then, Truss is another government voice speaking in favour of a no-deal Brexit.
That said, while many in the new government now promote a no-deal Brexit, few have done so as strongly as Dominic Raab, the new Foreign Secretary and de-facto Deputy Prime Minister. Like the others, Raab has repeatedly argued that if a new deal cannot be made, which the EU suggests it cannot, then no-deal is the best option. Indeed, he has even suggested that he would be willing to prorogue Parliament to ensure MPs cannot prevent no-deal from happening. The responsibilities for negotiating the Brexit and new trade deals may well fall under the control of other departments, but the role of foreign secretary is still important to the Brexit process. As Foreign Secretary, Raab will be seen as a spokesman for the British government by both domestic and international audiences, and thus any statements that he makes about Brexit will be heard around the globe. Furthermore, in conducting Britain’s diplomatic relations, the Foreign Office itself will be playing a crucial part in the process of creating new trade deals. Together, this all makes Raab a key player in the Brexit process and his preference is for no-deal secured through prorogation if necessary.
These extreme views are shared by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House of Commons, whom will also be attending Cabinet. In this role, Mogg will be responsible for controlling government time in the House of Commons, and thus (alongside the Chief Whip) will be tasked with getting any new deal through Parliament. More importantly, he will also be responsible for blocking any attempts by MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Over the years Mogg has made his views very clear. He believes that a no-deal Brexit is preferable to May’s Withdrawal Agreement and that the Government should prorogue Parliament to secure a no-deal if it needs to. Like Raab then, Mogg supports no-deal Brexit and the prorogation of Parliament to get there.
Lastly, there is Sajid Javid. As Chancellor, Javid will be crucial to ensuring economic stability in the event of a no-deal, and Johnson has reportedly ordered Javid to ensure Gove has all of the resources necessary to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Like Truss, Javid is another MP that voted for Remain but now supports no-deal if the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated.
Together then, taking into account the fact that the UK cannot renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, every single member of the Johnson Cabinet with significant control over Brexit now supports crashing out of the European Union without a deal. Indeed, considering the fragmented nature of May’s government, collective Cabinet responsibility is back in fashion, united behind no-deal. For those that wish to leave the EU with a deal and those that wish to remain, this is obviously a pretty bleak picture. Understandably so, since many experts agree that this scenario will be damaging to the UK’s economy, NHS, and global influence.
Regardless, based on Johnson’s rhetoric and Cabinet appointments, it looks very likely that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. Furthermore, as this is the legal default, there is nothing that Parliament can really do to stop this without a change in the law. Such a change that would be very difficult to make within the time that is left and would very likely require an election. Even if MPs do take action, the threat of prorogation is very real with Mogg as Leader of the House of Commons. Ultimately then, a no-deal Brexit is now the primary policy of the British government and, while still not certain, appears to be the most likely outcome of the Brexit saga.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image by ChiralJon,(CC BY 2.0).
Thomas Eason is a PhD International Relations student at the University of Nottingham.
So those of us who want to leave the EU and restore national sovereignty are extremists?
Andrew Chapman writes: “So those of us who want to leave the EU and restore national sovereignty are extremists?”
Did you actually read the article? The author referred to Raab and Rees-Mogg’s willingness to prorogue Parliament if necessary to achieve Brexit. This is indeed an extreme position; incidentally, it has nothing to do with what the electorate were promised by Leave.
Your suggestion that sovereignty will be restored by Brexit can safely be dismissed as nonsense. The government’s own white paper admitted that there had been no loss of sovereignty. Furthermore, the UK, if it signs a deal with Trump, will likely find its sovereignty impinged upon by him. Indeed, Trump is already treating the UK like a banana republic by interfering in its internal affairs by, for example (earlier) suggesting that Johnson would make a good Prime Minister.
J Humphreys, The trouble is that the UK has been treated like a banana republic by the small powerful cartel
running the EU.We are all unearved by Trump, but apart from blondness, Boris Johnson is not a Trump.. At least Boris is not cowering to the EU.We will not cower to American interests either. We buy a lot of stuff from European countries. We buy more than we sell.At least Boris Juhnson is going out to people other than those in London. I seem to remember Obama, much as i like him , pushing his nose into our internal affairs and thinking to myself that he was wrong to do so.
Mrs M.Cheek: “The trouble is that the UK has been treated like a banana republic by the small powerful cartel.”
The E.U. is not a cartel; do you know what a cartel is? The claim that the E.U. has treated the UK like a “banana republic” is an unsupported assertion. Please provide evidence for this claim.
“running the EU.We are all unearved by Trump, but apart from blondness, Boris Johnson is not a Trump.. “
Irrelevant. Johnson’s seeming determination to pursue hard Brexit will, in the opinion of the vast majority of economists and forecasters, lead to a fall in GDP, job losses and recession. Not to mention the negative political consequences.
“At least Boris is not cowering to the EU.”
That is because the E.U. is not threatening the U.K.
“We will not cower to American interests either. “
Fortune telling. Given the power imbalance and requirement to get a trade deal we will be in a weak bargaining position.
“I seem to remember Obama, much as i like him , pushing his nose into our internal affairs and thinking to myself that he was wrong to do so.”
He didn’t “push his nose into UK affairs”. He clarified American policy following misrepresentation by Leave who falsely claimed that the U.K. would be “at the head of the queue”. Clarifying and correcting misrepresentation of US policy is not interfering in U.K. affairs.
J Humphreys. I do think the EU is run by a powerful cartel. It’s like a mafia in behaviour. I have listened to Janis Varoufakis whose country has been devastated by EU policy. He would like the UK to remain part of the EU to fight unfairness from within., and from Greece’s point of view that would be of some value for them.I am no academic as you can tell, but when i see how poor parts of our country have become since my childhood I can only say the EU has been of no benifit. to many areas.which are poorer now than 40 years ago.
I wonder if the forecasters and economists are right.Perhaps there will be a new order.Perhaps the UK may have to invest in it’s own country again starting with a decent transport infrastructure for all.I did not like Obama talking about the back of the que. It sounded like a threat to me and was said to scare the UK voter. I know it was at the behest of Tony Blair whose say in anything turns my stomach after the lies told about Iraq. What a desaster for the world his bad careless decisionwas.