LONDON – The United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed the country will leave the European Union by the end of October “no ifs no buts.”
He convened his first cabinet meeting in Downing Street on Thursday, kicking off his political agenda with a government freshly stocked with ardent pro-Brexit ministers.
The 55-year-old told his reshuffled frontbenchers that Brexit would go ahead on Oct. 31 “no ifs no buts.”
In his first address to Parliament on Thursday afternoon he reiterated his promise.
“Our mission is to deliver Brexit on the 31st of October for the purpose of uniting and re energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth,” he said.
He vowed the UK’s future will be “clean, green, prosperous, united, confident and ambitious.”
He added: “To do so we must take some immediate steps and the first is to restore trust in our democracy and fulfill the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union and doing so on Oct. 31.
“I and all ministers are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances and to do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system.”
Johnson said he would “much prefer” to leave with a deal and that he hopes the EU will “rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement.”
“If they do not we will of course have to leave without an agreement,” he continued.
Johnson took up residence in Downing Street on Wednesday, taking over from Theresa May who quit after failing to pass her Brexit withdrawal bill.
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, the final contender against Johnson in the leadership race.
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 May also fired 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, and Michael Gove, former environment secretary, 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.
UK authorities investigated Vote Leave for suspicious donations.
Johnson’s first challenge will be to outline a concrete plan for Brexit.
He resigned as foreign secretary last year in disagreement with May’s deal, particularly a clause known as the Irish backstop.
The backstop was a kind of insurance policy designed to keep the UK aligned to the customs union until a solution was found for the border between Northern Ireland, a UK territory, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.
The EU as insisted there can be no tweaks to the withdrawal agreement.