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28/09/2016

Who’s who in the Brexit government?

UK & Europe

Who’s who in the Brexit government?

David Davis, the right-wing 'bruiser' who is now in charge of negotiating Brexit.

[EnglishPEN/Flickr]

Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May overnight announced six members of her cabinet, the nucleus of the ministerial team that will helm the negotiations to take the UK out of the European Union.

Three of the new appointments backed Remain in the 23 June referendum and three backed Leave. Further announcements are expected later today (14 July). Keep an eye on our live blog for developments.

Towards the post-Brexit relationship

EurActiv’s live coverage of the new UK government beginning to deal with the country’s exit from the EU unfolded like this…

EurActiv.com

May herself backed Remain, but was not as high profile in her support as her predecessor David Cameron, or his finance minister George Osborne, who May sacked last night. Leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove was sacked this morning.

But who are the MPs taking up the influential jobs over the Brexit negotiations and what can we expect from them in the future?

Brexit boss David Davis

MP David Davis was appointed to the new post of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

Davis worked for Britain’s Foreign Office from 1994 to 1997, with responsibility for negotiations with Europe. His uncompromising style led to him being nicknamed the “charming bastard” by his adversaries in Brussels.

He was also government whip – in charge of ensuring MPs toed the party line -when the Tory government of the time voted in the controversial Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

Despite or perhaps because of his experience in Brussels, Davis is a virulent Eurosceptic and supported Boris Johnson in his short-lived leadership campaign before backing May.

In February, he wrote, “If anything Europe has become less democratic, less competitive and more dysfunctional.  And Britain has become more sidelined.

“The EU has been in decline for some time now. There is no change of course in sight. The risks involved in staying are clear for all to see – low growth, high unemployment, and waning influence.

“In 1975, the EU was the bright future, a vision of a better world.  Now it is a crumbling relic from a gloomy past.  We must raise our eyes to the wider world.”

Before the referendum, he tweeted a stern warning about Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Legal experts have also pointed out that his knowledge of EU law may not be all it is cracked up to be.

Rescued from the backbenches by May, Davis stood for the leadership of the Conservative party in 2001 and 2005.

In 2005, he came second to David Cameron, who made his rival Shadow Home Secretary.

In a sign of his confrontational nature, capital punishment-supporting Davis resigned as Shadow Home Secretary and as an MP, in order to force a by-election and spark a debate on civil liberties.

A staunch opponent of plans to introduce ID cards, Davis’ gesture came after parliament narrowly passed a counter-terrorism bill extended detention limits on suspects.

Davis, who spent 17 years at Tate & Lyle – one of the few companies to back Brexit – won re-election in his Haltemprice and Howden constituency, breaking records with 72% of the vote.

But the ex-SAS soldier turned down Cameron’s offer to join his collation government, preferring to stay on the backbenches, earning a reputation as a serial rebel in the years that followed.

Dr Liam Fox – Secretary of State for International Trade

Dr Liam Fox (he served as a doctor in the army) is a Conservative Party veteran, having twice – unsuccessfully – stood for the party leadership, and served as a minister in the John Major administration of 1990-97.

On the hard-right, Transatlantic, free-markets and security hawk wing of the party, Fox was however forced to resign in disgrace in 2011, just a year after being appointed defence secretary under David Cameron.

The scandal that brought him down was his relationship with a man 17-years his junior, Adam Werrity, who had no security clearance or government position yet was admitted to the Ministry of Defence building and accompanied Fox on foreign visits on up to 40 occasions.

Werrity was the head of Fox’s “TransAtlantic Bridge” think tank, which was subsequently closed.

Fox, now responsible for international trade under May, is an ardent Atlantisist, pro-Trident, strongly pro-NATO, pro-Israel, sceptical of the EU-US-UN-Russia/Iran deal .

He termed Edward Snowden’s leaks of US classified information “treason”.

He is a social conservative, voting against gay marriage, wanting to reduce the term-limit for abortions, and – as a student in Glasgow – opposing admitting a gay rights union group, saying: “I’m actually quite liberal when it comes to sexual matters. I just don’t want the gays flaunting it in front of me, which is what they would do.”

Although a millionaire, he was forced to repay over £22,000 in wrongly-claimed expenses for one of his homes during the MPs expenses scandal.

Although Fox has served in many roles – from party chairman, to defence secretary, to shadow health spokesman – this is his first position negotiating trade deals.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, needs little introduction.

A onetime Brussels’ correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, Johnson is the former mayor of London. He dramatically withdrew from the Tory leadership race, after his ally Michael Gove said he wasn’t qualified for the job.

His appointment as foreign secretary sparked widespread disbelief across the EU.

Showman Johnson, who will be in charge of the British secret service, has a long history of gaffes that perhaps could have disqualified him from the job.

During the referendum campaign, he compared the EU to Adolf Hitler and likened US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton to a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.

He also wrote a prize-winning poem about Turkey’s president having sex with a goat.

Philip Hammond

The new chancellor and former foreign secretary backed Remain and takes over from the defenestrated Osborne.

Today Hammond said that Britain would leave the single market as part of its decision to leave the EU.

“We will come out of the single market as a result of our decision to leave the European Union,” he told LBC.

“The question is how we negotiate with the European Union, not from the point of view of being members of it but from the point of view of being close neighbours and trade partners of it.”

He added, “I would like to see us negotiating access to the single market for Britain’s businesses, so we can go on selling our goods and services into the European Union market and indeed enjoying the benefits of consuming European Union goods and services here as we do now.”

Hammond has also said there would be no emergency budget after Brexit. Osborne had claimed there would have to be if the British voted Leave.

But Hammond doesn’t take the finance job with an unblemished reputation. Despite being worth £8m, he sparked controversy by avoiding thousands in tax by transferring a share in a property to his wife.

Amber Rudd and Michael Fallon

Energy and climate minister Amber Rudd, who backed Remain, takes over from May as Home Secretary.  She participated in a televised referendum debate alongside Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leadership candidate Angela Eagle.

Michael Fallon has kept his position as Secretary of state for Defence. During the referendum campaign, he declared “I will die a Eurosceptic”.

But he said that British security concerns meant that now was not the time “to hide under our duvets” and supported Remain.