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Boris pick fires up UK press

UK & Europe

Boris pick fires up UK press

Boris Johnson appears pleased as he arrives at the Home Office. [Twitter]

Britain’s newspapers today (14 July) focused on new Prime Minister Theresa May’s challenge-laden in-tray, while her appointment of top Brexiteers, led by Boris Johnson, thrilled some, but alarmed others.

Dailies concentrated on the slant of the incoming government team replacing that of David Cameron, who stepped down as premier on Wednesday (13 July).

Stick ‘close to the EU’, Cameron tells May as he hands over power

Departing British Prime Minister David Cameron told his successor on Wednesday (13 July) to “be as close to the European Union as we can be”, as he handed over the reins of power to Theresa May.

‘The charming bastard’

Davis, who was beaten by Cameron in a 2005 party leadership contest, will take on the crucial role of defending Britain’s economy from investment-withering uncertainty and covetous neighbours, whilst unpicking over four decades of trade, legal and diplomatic ties to the EU.

At the heart of the job will be finding an answer to the key negotiating riddle: how can Britain keep access to the EU’s single market whilst winning the right to restrict the free movement of workers from within the EU?

Davis worked in government in Britain’s foreign office from 1994 to 1997, with responsibility for negotiations with Europe. During a recent interview in the Yorkshire Post, he recalled that colleagues in Europe had nicknamed him the “charming bastard”.

He said the friendly nickname came from a Portuguese foreign minister, who also dubbed him “the master of constructive obstruction” at a time when Britain was battling to define its role in the EU as the bloc sought closer integration.

“May’s clean break” said The Times‘ front page, with a picture of the new premier and her husband waving from the steps of 10 Downing Street.

The title drew inspiration from May’s sacking of Cameron’s number two, George Osborne. as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Times editorial was entitled “No time to lose”.

“Theresa May promises to rise to the challenge of leading Britain out of Europe, yet nothing she hopes to achieve will be possible without prosperity and growth,” it stated.

“Britain is at a turning point. Its wealth, stability and identity are all at stake,” the editorial read.

“The political limbo left by Brexit has been ended with impressive speed, but economic uncertainty lingers.

“Mrs May’s political honeymoon will be short.”

The Financial Times focused on Osborne’s replacement Philip Hammond, calling him a “dry, low-key fiscal hawk”.

Spotlight on Johnson

However, most newspapers were more interested in the surprise appointment of former London mayor Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

“New PM’s bombshell,” said the Daily Mirror. “Dear world… Sorry”, with a front page picture of Johnson stuck on a zip wire holding two British flags, from the London 2012 Olympics.

“Britain’s credibility was hanging by a thread last night as new PM Theresa May chose gaffe-prone Boris Johnson as foreign secretary,” the pro-Labour tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph had a picture of May’s first step into 10 Downing Street, taken from inside.

“May brings in the Brexiteers,” the conservative broadsheet said.

Its cartoon had a picture of traders looking at a screen bearing a line plunging then soaring.

“That’s not the pound, that’s Boris Johnson’s career,” read the caption.

“May’s team to battle Brussels,” said the EU-despising Daily Express, with pictures of Johnson and Brexit negotiator David Davis filling the front page.

Eurosceptic former ministers David Davis and Liam Fox were appointed respectively as Brexit negotiator and international trade minister, two new posts reflecting changed priorities after the referendum.

“Boris bounces back!” said the Daily Mail‘s front page, accompanied by a picture of Cameron’s five-year-old daughter Florence.

“Days after his PM dream imploded, May makes him foreign secretary,” said the right-wing tabloid.

“Then she sacks Osborne and hands top Cabinet jobs to Brexiteers.”

The Sun, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, also concentrated on Florence Cameron.

“Go with the Flo”, the tabloid’s headline said, with the entire front page a picture of Cameron looking at his smiling youngest child.

“David Cameron left Downing Street yesterday – but was upstaged by his giggling daughter Florence,” its front-page story began.

Free commuters’ newspaper Metro had a picture of the Camerons above the headline: “The May team”.

New PM, same problems

The Guardian carried a picture of May and her husband on the steps of 10 Downing Street with the headline: “May’s pledge to Brexit Britain”.

“Speech to the middle ground on steps of No 10 but then cabinet takes a tilt to the right,” it said.

The centre-left paper’s editorial was titled “new PM, same old problems”.

“No money, not much of a majority and one massive headache: Europe,” it said.

“Mrs May will have to fight her way past all these hazards if she is even to begin to develop the interesting ideas that she set out.”

Meanwhile Scottish separatist newspaper The National portrayed May as the Disney villain Cruella de Vil, with the headline “The De Vil is in the detail”.

“101 reasons to be terrified of the new government,” it said.

The EU foreign ministers gathering in Brussels on 18 July start with a breakfast with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Ministers will discuss notably EU-US relations and regional issues such as Syria and Libya. [Read more]