Bri­tish fi­nance min­is­ter quits

• Shock move af­ter Sa­jid Javid was or­dered to fire all his spe­cial ad­vis­ers

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Agency Staff Lon­don /AFP

Bri­tain’s fi­nance min­is­ter, Sa­jid Javid, re­signed on Thurs­day, deal­ing a blow to UK Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s gov­ern­ment just weeks af­ter Brexit and a month be­fore the bud­get.

Bri­tain’s fi­nance min­is­ter, Sa­jid Javid, re­signed on Thurs­day, deal­ing a blow to UK Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s gov­ern­ment just weeks af­ter Brexit and a month be­fore the bud­get.

The chan­cel­lor of the ex­che­quer stood down af­ter John­son tried to use a re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of his cab­i­net to get rid of some of Javid’s aides, a source close to the de­part­ing min­is­ter said.

Javid was re­placed at once by se­nior trea­sury of­fi­cial Rishi Su­nak. His de­par­ture has come as a shock at a tur­bu­lent time for Bri­tain, just weeks af­ter the coun­try’s de­par­ture from the EU on Jan­uary 31.

John­son was car­ry­ing out a cab­i­net reshuf­fle, his first since win­ning a com­fort­able par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity in the De­cem­ber gen­eral elec­tion.

Javid, a for­mer City of Lon­don banker from a work­ing-class Muslim fam­ily, was con­sid­ered to be safe in his job, de­spite re­ports of ten­sions be­tween him and John­son’s se­nior aide, Dominic Cum­mings.

But ru­mours be­gan to cir­cu­late af­ter his meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter went on longer than ex­pected.

“He has turned down the job of chan­cel­lor of the ex­che­quer,” said a source close to Javid. “The prime min­is­ter said he had to fire all his spe­cial ad­vis­ers and re­place them with Num­ber 10 spe­cial ad­vis­ers to make it one team. The chan­cel­lor said no self-re­spect­ing min­is­ter would ac­cept those terms.”

Ear­lier, John­son sacked his North­ern Ire­land min­is­ter de­spite his role in restor­ing the de­volved gov­ern­ment to Belfast af­ter a three-year sus­pen­sion last month.

Ju­lian Smith had helped end the po­lit­i­cal vac­uum in North­ern Ire­land by per­suad­ing the two main par­ties to re­turn to a power-shar­ing gov­ern­ment last month.

The Bri­tish prov­ince had no gov­ern­ment since Sinn Féin and the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP) fell out in Jan­uary 2017 in a dis­pute about a re­new­ableen­ergy scan­dal.

Ir­ish Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar led trib­utes to Smith’s ef­forts, say­ing he was “one of Bri­tain’s finest politi­cians of our time”.

But The Times news­pa­per said John­son felt “blind­sided” by the deal be­cause it in­cludes an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged crimes by Bri­tish sol­diers dur­ing decades of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that are known lo­cally as “the trou­bles”.

Ir­ish for­eign min­is­ter Si­mon Coveney, who was also in­volved closely in the power-shar­ing talks, said that with­out Smith’s lead­er­ship there would be no gov­ern­ment in Belfast.

“You have been such an ef­fec­tive sec­re­tary of state for North­ern Ire­land at a time of real chal­lenge and risk,” he tweeted.

Ar­lene Foster, who as DUP leader was re­stored as first min­is­ter of North­ern Ire­land un­der the deal, also hailed his “ded­i­ca­tion to the role”.

Smith said it had been “the big­gest priv­i­lege” and that he was “ex­tremely grate­ful” to John­son for giv­ing him the chance to serve.

Business sec­re­tary An­drea Lead­som, en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary Theresa Vil­liers and at­tor­ney-gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox were also shown the door. But for­eign min­is­ter Dominic Raab and Michael Gove, John­son’s de facto deputy, are stay­ing.

John­son post­poned car­ry­ing out a cab­i­net reshuf­fle im­me­di­ately af­ter his De­cem­ber elec­tion vic­tory, choos­ing to wait un­til Bri­tain left the EU.

Af­ter years of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil over Brexit, he wants to fo­cus this year on do­mes­tic is­sues, in­clud­ing in­vest­ments in po­lice, health care and in­fra­struc­ture. John­son also named for­mer aid min­is­ter Alok Sharma as the new min­is­ter in charge of the COP26 UN cli­mate sum­mit, which is be­ing held in Glas­gow in Novem­ber.

The for­mer pres­i­dent, Claire O’Neill, was sacked last month. She re­sponded with a blis­ter­ing at­tack on his lead­er­ship, and warned that planning for the sum­mit was “way off track”.

THE CHAN­CEL­LOR SAID NO SELFRESPEC­TING MIN­IS­TER WOULD AC­CEPT THOSE TERMS

Reuters

Com­ing and going: Bri­tain’s fi­nance min­is­ter, Sa­jid Javid, ar­rives at Down­ing Street in Lon­don on Thurs­day, when he re­signed. /

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