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Boris Johnson’s ‘War Cabinet’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a speech on domestic priorities at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, Britain, July 27, 2019. (Lorne Campbell/Reuters)
Meet the Brexiteers tasked by the new British prime minister with pulling the country out of Europe.

Last year, multiple individuals who have worked closely with Boris Johnson told National Review that he would make an excellent prime minister — provided he had the support of a strong cabinet. This month, after being elected prime minister by the Conservative party, Johnson has devised a select group of six ministers — popularly dubbed “the war cabinet” — who will meet daily with the express purpose of delivering Brexit by October 31 through “any means necessary.”

So who are the members of this dream team?

Michael Gove has been appointed chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and head of the Cabinet Office. After remaining Johnson’s foremost supporter throughout the 2016 campaign to succeed David Cameron as party leader and PM, Gove withdrew his backing at the last minute in what many considered to be a monstrous betrayal. As environment secretary under Theresa May, Gove fought hard to avoid a no-deal Brexit and supported the much-maligned deal that May negotiated with Brussels. Johnson is seemingly not one for grudges, however, and has put Gove in charge of preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Sajid Javid is Johnson’s chancellor of the Exchequer. Javid is the son of a Pakistani bus driver who rose to become the youngest-ever vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, at the age of 25. Last weekend, Javid penned an article for the Sunday Telegraph announcing that, as part of the government’s Brexit preparations, he would be tightening up border security and launching the “biggest ever” public-awareness campaign to get British voters and businesses ready for the country’s departure from Europe. As head of the British economy, he said he’d be redirecting more than £1 billion toward the Brexit preparations.

Dominic Raab is Johnson’s foreign secretary. Raab held the position of Brexit secretary under Theresa May until resigning last November in protest of May’s deal with Brussels. He will also serve as first secretary of state (effectively the prime minister’s deputy).

Steve Barclay, May’s last Brexit secretary, is staying on in that position under Johnson. He has managed to last unusually long in the post, which has seen about as much turnover as Hogwarts’s Defense against the Dark Arts professorship.

Geoffrey Cox, Johnson’s attorney general, is also in the “war cabinet.” In March, Cox delivered brutally honest legal advice to Parliament about Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Cox warned then of the legal risk that Britain might be unable to get out of the Irish backstop, the temporary customs union preventing a hard border with Ireland. Johnson has been uncompromising on this point.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the stridently pro-Brexit Tory faction that calls itself the European Research Group, will also attend the cabinet meetings as the newly appointed leader of the House of the Commons. Rees-Mogg has been nicknamed the “member for the 18th century” on account of his traditional moral views and eccentric wardrobe. “I think the EU thinks that we might come to the conclusion that this is all a terrible mistake, like Bobbie Ewing waking up from his dream in the shower all those years ago, and that we’ll come to our senses and want to stay,” he told National Review in December. He has been a long-time supporter of Johnson, who he believes will be a more effective Brexit negotiator than May.

Last, and perhaps most controversial of all, is Johnson’s newly appointed senior aide, Dominic Cummings. Cummings is a notorious political adviser who has been described as the “evil genius” behind the 2016 Vote Leave campaign. He was recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Channel 4 film Brexit: The Uncivil War. He has said that Johnson has not ruled out proroguing Parliament or calling a general election in order to stop those who seek to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

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