New British PM Theresa May appoints Brexit cabinet
Theresa May is spending her first full day as prime minister fleshing out her government on Thursday, after taking office pledging a fresh start as Britain heads towards the EU exit door.
May has rung the changes in appointing her first six ministers, including the surprise nomination of Brexit campaign figurehead Boris Johnson as foreign secretary and other “Leave” campaigners filling posts.
Now she is set to name the new ministers in charge of the important health, education, Scotland, work and business briefs.
May replaced David Cameron, who stood down Wednesday following the referendum in which Britain voted to leave the EU, sparking political turmoil, and volatility on the financial markets.
May, who had supported Britain’s continued EU membership, appointed leading “Leave” campaigner Johnson to a senior cabinet post while moving quickly to heal divisions sparked by the referendum.
Choosing the eccentric former London mayor to represent the UK around the world got Britain’s newspapers animated.
While Eurosceptic tabloids rejoiced, the Daily Mirror said the kingdom’s credibility was left “hanging by a thread” by making the “gaffe-prone” Johnson Britain’s top diplomat.
Meanwhile The Times said Britain was at a “turning point”, with its wealth, stability and identity all at stake.
“Economic uncertainty lingers,” it said.
The Guardian warned: “A fresh face won’t make Brexit, the budget deficit or a tiny working majority disappear”.
In an apparent attempt at a clean break, May ditched finance minister George Osborne, Cameron’s closest ally.
She appointed former foreign secretary Philip Hammond to the Treasury job instead.
“Others will judge — I hope I’ve left the economy in a better state than I found it,” Osborne said.
May kept Michael Fallon as defence minister, while Amber Rudd was promoted to May’s old interior minister job at the Home Office.
Eurosceptic former ministers David Davis and Liam Fox were appointed respectively as Brexit negotiator and international trade minister, two new posts reflecting changed priorities after the referendum.
EU leaders are pressing for a swift divorce following the Brexit vote, which sent shockwaves around the world.
May had a phone calls late Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
May stressed her commitment to delivering Brexit but “explained that we would need some time to prepare for these negotiations and spoke of her hope that these could be conducted in a constructive and positive spirit”, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.