190725 Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Image Credit: AFP

London: After one of the most brutal political reshuffles in recent memory, the new British cabinet appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain met Thursday to sign up to his hard-line pledge to complete Brexit - without any agreement if necessary and whatever the cost - in less than 100 days.

Johnson’s Cabinet dispenses with around half the top team of his predecessor, Theresa May - a cull that shocked many with its scope and blunt political messaging. The prime minister told the new Cabinet that it was “wonderful” to see them assembled, adding, “We have a momentous task ahead of us, at a pivotal moment in our country’s history.”

“We are now committed, all of us, to leaving the European Union on October 31 or indeed earlier - no ifs, no buts,” he said.

Johnson made the same promise outside Downing Street on Wednesday, and he has insisted that all members of his Cabinet are signed up to that objective whether or not it means a damaging, potentially chaotic, no-deal exit.

Here is a look at some of the decisions ahead:

“UK must turbocharge no-deal preparations”

Johnson said on Thursday Britain had to boost its preparations for leaving the European Union without an exit agreement, saying that while the country was more prepared than some thought, it was not as ready as it should be. “In the 98 days that remain to us we must turbo-charge our preparations to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible to our national life,” Johnson told parliament.

“Irish backstop must be abolished for Brexit deal”

Johnson told the European Union on Thursday that the Irish border backstop would have to be struck out of the Brexit divorce agreement if there was to be an orderly exit with a deal. Johnson told parliament the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, must be abolished. “It must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop,” Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister. The Irish backstop is contained in a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement which Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed to in November. It is the most contentious part of the deal for British lawmakers who fear it will slice Northern Ireland off from the rest of the United Kingdom. Johnson’s government does not have a majority in parliament so rules with the help of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, who vehemently oppose the backstop. When asked about Johnson’s comment, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he looked forward to discussing the issue with Johnson. Varadkar had said on Wednesday that Johnson’s pledge of a new Brexit deal was “not in the real world”.

Being Boris: Johnson signals hardline ahead

Johnson said he believed the European Union would have every reason to want to compromise with Britain over its departure from the bloc. Johnson has said he will try to wrest changes from the EU over the deal negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May to make it more palatable to parliament, otherwise Britain will leave without a deal. The EU has said the divorce deal, or Withdrawal Agreement, is not up for renegotiation. “Why begin by assuming that our EU friends will not wish to compromise? I think they have every reason to want to compromise, and that is what we will seek,” Johnson told parliament.

—New York Times News Service