London: Boris Johnson on Thursday promised the “beginning of a new golden age”, as he made his first Commons statement as the Prime Minister and kicked off his political agenda with a government freshly stocked with more ardent pro-Brexit Ministers.
Speaking to MPs, Johnson said his government would throw itself into Brexit negotiations with energy and assured EU citizens living in the UK that they would have “absolute certainty” of their right to live and remain in the country.
On Brexit, he told MPs that Minister Michael Gove would make planning for a no-deal Brexit a “top priority”, the BBC reported.
Despite emphasizing the importance of preparing for a no deal, Johnson said he would “much prefer” to leave the EU with a deal and added that he will work “flat out to make it happen”.
However he told MPs the withdrawal agreement – negotiated by Theresa May with the EU – was “unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country”.
One of the controversial parts of the withdrawal agreement is the Northern Ireland backstop — a mechanism to avoid physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Johnson said other arrangements for the backstop were “perfectly compatible” with the Good Friday Agreement which which ended decades of strife in Northern Ireland between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists.
On immigration, he told MPs he wanted to change the system and would be asking the Migration Advisory Committee to come up with new proposals.
The former London Mayor also addressed his Cabinet for the first time as Prime Minister. He told the Cabinet they had “a momentous task ahead”, as he repeated his commitment for the UK to leave the EU on October 31.
He took residence at Downing Street after two-thirds of the roughly 160,000 Conservative Party members voted for him to lead the party, taking over from Theresa May, who left the post due to her inability to command a parliamentary majority in her quest to pass the Brexit withdrawal bill, her flagship policy.
Although some of May’s Ministers held onto their jobs, and others took on new titles, Johnson took care to curate his Cabinet in line with his harsher stance on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Former banker Sajid Javid moved from the Home Office to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, taking over from Phillip Hammond, who opted to resign rather than serve under Johnson.
Dominic Raab, a former Brexit Secretary appointed by May who went on to resign in opposition to the withdrawal deal, becomes Foreign Secretary, taking over as the country’s top diplomat from Jeremy Hunt.
Priti Patel, one of the key figures in Vote Leave who was fired by May for holding undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials, takes on the role of Home Secretary.
Gavin Williamson, who was also fired by May for leaking information regarding the government’s position on Chinese firm Huawei’s plan to roll out 5G, is the new Education Secretary.
Liam Fox was sacked as International Trade Secretary to be replaced by Liz Truss. Former Environment Secretary Michael Gove is now the Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, a Ministerial post without a portfolio.
Notably, Dominic Cummings, a campaign director for Vote Leave often credited coming up with the slogan “let’s take back control” which was famously painted on the side of a red bus erroneously suggesting the UK spent 350 million pounds a week to be a member of the EU, became Johnson’s senior policy advisor.