Boris Johnson’s Appointment as UK Foreign Secretary
New Prime Minister Theresa May’s first appointment was the biggest surprise, on another day of surprises. Despite his polyglot ancestry, Johnson has a history of offending foreigners with his florid hyperbolic use of language. His withdrawal from the leadership race looked like the end of his immediate political ambitions. Should we see his appointment to one of the great ministerial posts as an example of self-protection, schadenfreude, or pragmatism by our new Prime Minister?
Well, all of the above. Theresa May’s weakness is that she was in the Remain camp during the Referendum, albeit pragmatically or reluctantly so. At a time when the Brexiteers are aggressively maintaining pressure on the Government to deliver the result of the Referendum, appointing leading supporters of Leave to the three main Cabinet posts concerned with Brexit gives her considerable protection. Schadenfreude too: surely an element of “you got us into this mess, now get us out of it”. But also pragmatism. Of all the Leave campaigners, the new Brexit Secretary of State David Davis has set out by far the clearest vision of how exit is achieved and what the future looks like: an export-led strategy, build on a foundation of protectionism, with a continuation of employment rights, but regulatory change elsewhere to make the UK more competitive so it can better penetrate emerging global markets.
Add to all this the fact that, if it doesn’t work, the Prime Minister can blame the Brexiteer negotiators, and you have the perfect plan. The problem with plans, as the generals tell us, is that they rarely survive first contact with the enemy. And Theresa May’s trio of Brexiteers are not known for their lack of independent thinking.