Just weeks after Britain finally left the EU as part of the Brexit process, UK finance minister Sajid Javid resigned from his post. Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle comes as post-Brexit negotiations with the EU heat up.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson began reshaping his government on Thursday, in hopes of tightening his grip on power. The UK leader is seeking a team that will help him deliver his vision for Brexit.
In a surprise move, Britain's finance minister, Sajid Javid, submitted his resignation just weeks after Brexit and one month before he was set to deliver the government's annual budget. The finance minister, known in the UK as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is one the most powerful positions in the state.
A source close to Javid cited by the Reuters news agency said Javid resigned after a clash with Boris Johnson. The prime minister allegedly told Javid that, in order to keep the cabinet post, Javid would need to fire his team of advisers and replace them with advisers from Johnson's office.
"The Chancellor said no self-respecting minister would accept those terms," the unnamed source said.
Later on Friday, Javid himself confirmed he was asked to let his advisers go and used almost the exact same words to describe his decision.
"I don't believe any self-respecting minister would accept such conditions and so therefore I felt the best thing to do was to go," he told reporters outside his home.
At the same time, Javid said Johnson still had his "full support."
Johnson loyalist takes over
Seeking to minimize any disruption from the cabinet reshuffle, Johnson quickly announced the appointment of Javid's deputy, Rishi Sunak, as a replacement. Nonetheless, Javid’s surprise departure caused the value of the pound to dip.
The 39-year old Sunak had at one point worked as banker for Goldman Sachs. He first entered Parliament five years ago, making his ascent to what's commonly seen as the most influential post in the UK government besides prime minister remarkably swift. Sunak is believed to be an ardent Johnson loyalist.
"Delighted to be appointed," Sunak told reporters outside Britain's finance ministry after the decision was announced. "Lots to get on with."
Johnson’s cabinet shuffle included the removal of Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers and Housing Minister Esther McVey, all high-profile women in the administration.
The UK PM has also sacked Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who had been widely praised for helping to end a political deadlock that left Northern Ireland without a regional government and assembly for three years. He was replaced by Brandon Lewis, who previously served as the security minister.
Among the cabinet members who are keeping their posts were Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
British opposition politicians criticized Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, saying it was a mess.
"This is a historical record. A government in chaos within weeks of an election," said Labour's finance spokesman John McDonnell — the opposite number to the main winner of the day, Rishi Sunak.
dj,jcg/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)