Boris Johnson named UK prime minister, picks new cabinet for Brexit challenge

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Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech outside Downing Street, London, July 24, 2019. /Getty
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Agencies

Boris Johnson formally took over as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday, announcing an overhaul of top ministers as he began his mission to deliver Brexit by October 31 by any means necessary.

The former London mayor, a divisive figure best known for his gaffes and rhetorical flourishes, was officially named as prime minister during a visit to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

In his first speech as leader outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson vowed to “get a new deal, a better deal” from the EU – warning that there would be a no-deal Brexit if Brussels refuses to negotiate.

“We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts,” he said.

The Queen received The Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP in an Audience this afternoon and requested him to form a new Administration. Royal Family

He succeeds the outgoing premier Theresa May, who urged him to deliver Brexit “in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom” in her final comments upon leaving Downing Street.

May resigned after failing to get her plan for leaving the EU through parliament, forcing her to twice delay Britain’s departure date.

Johnson, 55, has vowed to renegotiate her deal or take Britain out of the bloc at the next deadline, October 31, without a deal.

But the EU refuses to reopen the text, while some of Johnson’s own MPs say they would rather bring down his government than accept a damaging “no deal” exit.

Brexit hardliners

With just over three months before Britain is due to leave the European Union, the incoming prime minister swiftly moved to appoint his cabinet and advisers.

In a symbolic move, Johnson named hardline Brexiteer Dominic Raab as his foreign secretary, replacing his rival in the Conservative leadership contest, Jeremy Hunt.

Raab, 45, who was also named as Johnson’s effective deputy, resigned as Brexit minister in May’s government last year saying the divorce deal she struck with Brussels offered too many compromises.

Fellow Brexit supporter Priti Patel, who May sacked as international aid minister for unauthorised contacts with the Israeli government, was appointed interior minister in the new administration.

Johnson also appointed Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of the official Brexit Vote Leave campaign, as a senior adviser in Downing Street.

Several ministers resigned before Johnson took office, including finance minister Philip Hammond, who has condemned the “no deal” threat as deeply irresponsible.

He was replaced on Wednesday by Sajid Javid, who served as interior minister in May’s government.

‘Reckless plans’

Johnson has never hidden his ambition for power, using his trademark jokes and bluster to pull off unlikely electoral victories, but he takes over at a time of immense upheaval.

May became prime minister three years ago promising to deal with the “burning injustices” in society, but her time in office was dominated with Brexit wrangling.

She leaves behind a divided Conservative party — and country — and a government with only a wafer-thin majority in parliament.

During May’s final appearance in parliament on Wednesday, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged her to join him and Hammond to “oppose the reckless plans of her successor”. She shook her head.

Johnson was elected overwhelmingly by Conservative party members but is not as popular among the wider public.

A survey by the YouGov polling institute on Wednesday found his approval rating was just 31 percent.

In a sign of how rocky his premiership is likely to be, the incoming PM was briefly blocked on his way to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday by Greenpeace activists.

But Britain’s new leader has at least one enthusiastic supporter in US President Donald Trump.

The US president was one of the first to congratulate Johnson on his victory, saying he would be “great” and describing him as “Britain Trump”.

Trump suggested Johnson would work together well with anti-EU figurehead Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party has taken a big chunk of eurosceptic votes from the Conservatives.

Johnson has ruled out any electoral pact.

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