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Theresa May draws line under Cameron Era as Boris Johnson named to Brexit team
Published in Amwal Al Ghad on 14 - 07 - 2016

As she became the U.K.'s new prime minister, Theresa May announced her team to negotiate Britain's withdrawal from the European Union (EU) and promised to build a more socially just country.
May took over from David Cameron less than three weeks after Britons voted to leave the EU. She promised a "bold new positive role" for Britain abroad and less "burning injustice" at home, drawing lessons from last month's bitter referendum and making a pitch for the center-ground of politics where U.K. elections are traditionally won.
Among her first actions, May fired George Osborne, the chief strategist of Cameron's administration and the architect of his flagship austerity policies, as finance minister. She replaced him with Philip Hammond, the former foreign secretary.
Prominent conservatives who campaigned to get Britain out of the EU were given the task of seeing the job through, starting with former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was named foreign secretary, in the day's most surprising move. Working with him will be David Davis, who was assigned the task of overseeing Brexit negotiations, and Liam Fox, who will have to negotiate new trade deals.
"The domestic-facing portfolios are Remain and the outward facing ones are Leave," Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said by phone. "If the Brexit negotiations don't go as people would like, then it's the Leave people who'll take the blame."
Recession Predicted
Britain's second woman prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, May swept to power in the wake of last month's referendum. Cameron quit after the failure of his Remain campaign, and May's rivals for the top job proceeded to knife each other or drop out, leaving her as the sole candidate.
She must now manage Britain's exit from the 28-nation EU, and possibly a recession too. The looming Brexit has sent a chill through markets and the global business community. The pound has fallen 11 percent in the past three weeks, consumer sentiment has plunged the most since 1994 and companies from Vodafone Group Plc to JPMorgan Chase & Co. say they are considering moving jobs abroad.
Within hours of taking office, May spoke with some of the EU leaders who'll be her most important interlocutors in the coming months. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called to wish her luck while French President Francois Hollande reminded the new prime minister that he wants to see Brexit happen quickly.
At the other end of the line, May "emphasized her commitment to delivering the will of the British people to leave the European Union," her office said. "The Prime Minister explained that we would need some time to prepare for these negotiations and spoke of her hope that these could be conducted in a constructive and positive spirit."
In a sign of how Brexit will dominate the government's priorities, the Foreign Office will be overseen by Johnson, the most prominent of the so-called Brexiteers, while Davis and Fox will both head new departments that will play key roles.
Dipped in Blood
"It doesn't get her out of the responsibility for whatever happens with Brexit, but she's at least dipped their hands in the blood," said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. "Whatever deal she gets is a deal they'll be associated with."
Davis, a former minister of state for Europe in the 1990s, will now be "Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union." He will help May in deciding when to start the two-year process of withdrawal, and how to reconcile her desire to retain access to the EU's single market with public pressure to curb immigration. Fox, another prominent Euroskeptic, will be secretary of state for international trade.
According to a person familiar with May's appointments, Osborne was told he was no longer wanted. He had angered many Conservative lawmakers with the extent of his campaigning against Brexit.
May doesn't have to go to the polls until 2020, though she could opt to do so earlier, with the opposition Labour Party paralyzed by an internal fight between leader Jeremy Corbyn and his lawmakers.
As she addressed the country from Downing Street, the main focus of her speech wasn't Brexit or the economy -- at least, not directly. Instead, she addressed Britons who feel their lives have been made insecure by globalization, and who are increasingly angry with the political class -- a group that encompasses many from the Leave-voting majority.
"If you're from an ordinary working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realize," May said. "You have a job, but you don't always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about paying the mortgage. If you are one of those families, if you're just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you are working around the clock, I know you're doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle."
The daughter of a clergyman, she's able to talk about privilege in a way that Cameron, a stockbroker's son and Old Etonian, never could.
"When it comes to taxes we will prioritize not the wealthy, but you," May said, again signaling a departure from Cameron's government, which cut taxes on inheritance. "We won't entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you."
Source: Bloomberg


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