Boris Johnson: Brutal Cabinet purge and EU warning from new PM

Boris Johnson has begun his premiership with a brutal Cabinet clear-out and an aggressive warning to the EU that it would be to blame if the UK crashes out without a Brexit deal.

Within two hours of Mr Johnson entering Number 10, nearly three quarters of the Cabinet had either resigned or been sacked in the bloodiest Cabinet reshuffle in modern political history.

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Nicola Sturgeon writes to Boris Johnson: 'We will give Scotland independence cho...

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New Prime Minister Boris Johnson Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Scottish secretary David Mundell was among those sacked in a shock move that surprised Tory MPs from north of the Border and will deepen the freeze in relations between Ruth Davidson and the new Prime Minister. He was replaced with Alister Jack, who was only elected as MP for Dumfries and Galloway two years ago. Speaking in Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson said the UK would leave the EU by the 31 October deadline, “no ifs, no buts”.

He struck an optimistic but uncompromising tone, saying: “The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters are going to get it wrong again.

“The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to the new Prime Minister last night demanding an urgent meeting and warning that preparations for a second Scottish independence referendum would continue.

“Given your public comments about leaving the EU on 31 October with or without a deal, ‘come what may’ and ‘do or die’, it is now – more than ever – essential that in Scotland we have an alternative option,” Ms Sturgeon said.

The political drama began before Mr Johnson arrived in Downing Street, with Chancellor Philip Hammond, international development secretary Rory Stewart, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and justice secretary David Gauke making good on promises to resign rather than be sacked by the new Prime Minister.

But their departures were just the start, as Mr Johnson swiftly culled 11 more Cabinet ministers to make room for his closest supporters.

His leadership rival Jeremy Hunt left government after snubbing an offer to be moved from the Foreign Office to the Ministry of Defence. Sackings that followed included defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, business secretary Greg Clark, Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley, and international trade secretary Liam Fox. Transport secretary Chris Grayling, who supported Mr Johnson’s leadership bid, was allowed to resign.

One MP who also backed Johnson in the leadership race welcomed what they called a “purge” of Mrs May’s top team.

Sajid Javid was named the new Chancellor, and Priti Patel – who resigned as international development secretary in 2017 over claims she breached the ministerial code – is the new Home Secretary.

As well as Alok Sharma at the Department for International Development, the appointments give Mr Johnson the most diverse Cabinet ever.

Dominic Raab is Foreign Secretary and will act as Mr Johnson’s deputy. Michael Gove has been named Minister for the Cabinet Office and will take the lead in Brexit negotiations with the devolved administrations.

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said Mr Johnson had appointed “a Cabinet of hardline Conservatives who will only represent the privileged few”, while the SNP’s Pete Wishart claimed it was “shaping up to be the worst” Cabinet since Thatcher.

Earlier, Mr Johnson was cheered into Downing Street by supporters after being invited to form a government by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

They included Carrie Symonds, his girlfriend, who did not accompany him into Number 10.