Boris Johnson hit with trio of Cabinet resignations before becoming PM

Boris Johnson's entry into Downing Street was foreshadowed by a series of Cabinet resignations from high-profile Tory opponents of a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond quit as Chancellor, Rory Stewart resigned as International Development Secretary and David Gauke left his post as Justice Secretary in the hours before the Tory leader was to enter No 10 as prime minister.

The apparently co-ordinated resignations from Government on Wednesday came after Theresa May gave her last Prime Minister's Questions and as Mr Johnson was shaping up a Government to deliver Brexit.

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Boris Johnson becomes PM
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is welcomed into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is clapped into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is clapped into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is clapped into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is clapped into 10 Downing Street by staff after seeing Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson's partner Carrie Symonds waits for him to make a speech outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Protesters outside 10 Downing Street, London, awaiting the arrival of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Newly Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Buckingham Palace in London, following an audience with Queen Elizabeth II where he was invited to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Newly Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Buckingham Palace in London, following an audience with Queen Elizabeth II where he was invited to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson during an audience in Buckingham Palace, London, where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson during an audience in Buckingham Palace, London, where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson during an audience in Buckingham Palace, London, where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson, center, arrives at Buckingham Palace in London for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II where he will be formally invited to become Prime Minister, Wednesday July 24, 2019. Boris Johnson will replace May as Prime Minister later Wednesday, following her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the Brexit withdrawal agreement she struck with the European Union. (Yui Mok/pool via AP)
LONDON — Boris Johnson was due to enter 10 Downing St. as Britain's new prime minister on Wednesday, vowing to lead the U.K. out of the European Union and unite a country deeply divided over Brexit.It's a tall order. Johnson has just 99 days to make good on his promise to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, "come what may."The former mayor of London and foreign secretary is getting Britain's top job in politics after winning a contest to lead the governing Conservative Party.Famed for his bravado, quips in Latin and blond mop of hair, Johnson easily defeated Conservative rival Jeremy Hunt, winning two-thirds of the votes of about 160,000 party members across the U.K.He replaces Theresa May, who announced her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement she struck with the 28-nation bloc, leaving Britain stranded in Brexit limbo as the U.K.'s departure from the EU was delayed past its long-scheduled March exit date.Johnson was taking office in a day of carefully choreographed political drama that began with May attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions period in the House of Commons for the last time.The usually boisterous session was subdued, with Conservative colleagues praising May's sense of duty and opposition leaders offering best wishes, while aiming their fire at her replacement. May just shook her head when Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn asked if she would help him stop "the reckless plans of her successor," who has vowed to leave the EU if necessary without a Brexit divorce deal.May offered Johnson slightly muted praise, saying she was pleased to hand over to a Conservative committed to "delivering on the vote of the British people in 2016 and to delivering a bright future for this country."And she fired back at Corbyn: "As a party leader who has accepted when her time was up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same?"As she left the Commons chamber, May was given a standing ovation by Conservative lawmakers, many of whom helped bring her down by rejecting her Brexit deal.After saying goodbye to Downing Street staff, May stood outside the prime minister's residence and spoke publicly for the last time as Britain's leader.With husband, Philip, by her side, May said it had been "the greatest honour" to serve as prime minister.Reminding her successor of the risks posed by a disruptive Brexit, May said the new government's priority must be "to complete our exit from the European Union in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom."May and her husband then travelled by ministerial Jaguar the mile (1.6 kilometres) to Buckingham Palace to advise Queen Elizabeth II to ask Johnson to form a new government. The palace confirmed in a statement that the 93-year-old monarch had accepted May's resignation.May left the palace after a half-hour. Moments later, Johnson's car swept through the gates of the royal residence. He will be the 14th prime minister of the queen's 67-year reign.There was a brief hiccup in the smooth handover when environmental protesters blocked Johnson's car by forming a human chain across the road outside the palace. They were quickly bundled aside by his police escort.Greenpeace said its activists had tried to hand Johnson a letter calling for strong action against climate change.Later, Johnson is to give a speech outside 10 Downing St., giving Britons a glimpse at his priorities and policy plans.Then the real battle starts.Johnson has vowed that Britain will leave the EU on the currently scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a deal on departure terms. Economists warn that a no-deal Brexit would disrupt trade and plunge the U.K. into recession, and the EU is adamant that the deal it made with May will not be renegotiated.Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said "we are ready to listen and to work with" Johnson, but did not budge on the bloc's refusal to alter the deal."A no-deal Brexit will never be, never, the choice of the EU. But we are prepared," he said in Brussels.Johnson, whose personal brand is built on optimism — and, critics say, an ambiguous relationship with facts — promised Tuesday to deliver Brexit "in a new spirit of can do.""I say to all the doubters: 'Dude, we are going to energize the country, we are going to get Brexit done,'" he said.To succeed, Johnson must win over the many Britons opposed to Brexit and resistant to his blustering charms.In a sign he hopes to move beyond the largely white, male and affluent Conservative members who chose him as their leader, Johnson's office said his government would be a "Cabinet for modern Britain" with more women and a record number of ministers from ethnic minorities.His administration is also set to include some pro-EU politicians, but many members will be strong Brexit supporters like Johnson. One of his senior advisers is set to be Dominic Cummings, lead strategist for the "Vote Leave" campaign in the 2016 EU membership referendum.A contentious figure, Cummings was found to be in contempt of Parliament earlier this year for refusing to give evidence to a committee of lawmakers investigating "fake news."Several senior members of May's government who oppose a no-deal Brexit resigned Wednesday before they could be fired by Johnson. Treasury chief Philip Hammond, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Justice Secretary David Gauke all quit, along with David Lidington, who was May's deputy prime minister."Given Boris's stated policy of leaving the EU by October 31 at all costs, I am not willing to serve in his government," Gauke said in his resignation letter.___Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership race at: https://www.apnews.com/BrexitJill Lawless And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson, center, arrives at Buckingham Palace in London for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II where he will be formally invited to become Prime Minister, Wednesday July 24, 2019. Boris Johnson will replace May as Prime Minister later Wednesday, following her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the Brexit withdrawal agreement she struck with the European Union. (Yui Mok/pool via AP)
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson arrives at Buckingham Palace in London, for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II where he will be invited to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Boris Johnson leaves Whitehall before a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II where he will accept her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Boris Johnson leaves Whitehall before a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II where he will accept her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson arrives at Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson leaves Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson leaves Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, on the day it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson leaves his office in Westminster, London, after it was announced he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson arrives at Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson (left) with Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis as he arrives at Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson speaks at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London after being announced as the new Conservative party leader and next Prime Minister.
Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson leaves his office in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister.
(left to right) Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London as it was announced Mr Johnson is the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister.
Jeremy Hunt (left) and Boris Johnson at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London where Mr Johson was announced as the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister.
(left to right) Lucia Hunt, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London as it was announced Mr Johnson is the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister.
Jeremy Hunt (left) congratulates Boris Johnson at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London where he was announced as the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister.
(left to right) Lucia Hunt, Jeremy Hunt, congratulating Boris Johnson and Sir Edward Lister, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London where Mr Johnson was announced as the new Conservative party leader, and will become the next Prime Minister.
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The trio strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit and say they cannot support Mr Johnson's commitment to take Britain out of the EU by the deadline of October 31 "do or die".

Mr Hammond said the new PM should be "free to choose a chancellor who is fully aligned with his policy position" in his resignation letter.

And in a pointed message to Mr Johnson, he warned that the headroom built up in the public finances could only be used for tax cuts and spending boosts if a Brexit deal was secured.

Also standing down was the chief whip in the Lords, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, but a source said this was long-planned and not related to the "political situation".

The moves came as Mr Johnson was moulding his Cabinet, with a return expected for Eurosceptic Priti Patel and an advisory role for Leave campaign mastermind Dominic Cummings.

The new Tory leader will take over the reins of power after Mrs May leaves No 10 for the final time on Wednesday to formally tender her resignation to the Queen.

But even before his summons to the Palace to form a government following his resounding victory in the Tory leadership race, Mr Johnson was beginning to shape his top team.

It will include a recall to the Cabinet for Ms Patel, an ardent Brexiteer who was forced by Mrs May to resign as international development secretary over unauthorised contacts with Israeli officials.

But uncertainty surrounds the future of Mr Johnson's defeated leadership rival Jeremy Hunt after he reportedly turned down a demotion from Foreign Secretary to Defence Secretary.

Boris Johnson becomes PM
Dominic Cummings is expected to be given an advisory role in Boris Johnson's administration (House of Commons/PA)

One of the most eye-catching appointments expected to be made by Mr Johnson is a senior advisory role for Mr Cummings, the abrasive mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign.

Mr Cummings clashed with officials and politicians while he was an adviser to Michael Gove in the coalition government, but Mr Johnson clearly believes his forthright style will help steer Brexit through.

His appointment will be controversial given that earlier this year he was found to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to give evidence to a committee of MPs investigating "fake news".

He is also less than impressed with the calibre of Brexiteer MPs, describing a "narcissist-delusional subset" of the European Research Group (ERG) as a "metastasising tumour" that needed to be "excised".

Mr Johnson will need the support of those same ERG hardliners for his Brexit plan.

Tories
Priti Patel is set for a return to Cabinet (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Patel has reportedly been lined up for the post of home secretary as allies said Mr Johnson was determined to create a "Cabinet for modern Britain", with a record number of ethnic minority ministers and more women attending in their own right.

It is likely to mean a promotion for the Indian-born Employment Minister Alok Sharma, who is expected to take his place around the top table.

Unlike Ms Patel, he voted Remain in the 2016 referendum but was quick to declare his support for Mr Johnson when he threw his hat into ring following Mrs May's decision to resign.

Tory leadership race
Boris Johnson arrives at Conservative party HQ following his victory in the leadership election (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A source close to the Tory leader said: "Boris will build a Cabinet showcasing all the talents within the party that truly reflect modern Britain."

Ahead of the resignations, Mr Gauke had said there were "a few ministers leaving government today" but "some of us hope to return ... one day" in a social media post accompanied by a picture of him and Mr Stewart with artificially aged faces.

Another who may be on his way out is the Business Secretary Greg Clark, another opponent of a no-deal break.

However, Mr Johnson is likely to be faced by a gaggle of Brexiteer ministers who resigned from Mrs May's government now jostling to get back in – including Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss were being touted as possible replacements for the key post of chancellor.

Mr Johnson has said he wants ministers who are prepared if necessary to leave the EU without a deal with Brussels.

But with a slender Commons majority for the Tories and their DUP allies of just two, he cannot afford for his government to be too narrowly-based.

Formal announcements are not expected until after Boris Johnson leaves the Palace following his audience with the Queen inviting him to form a government.

Ahead of the resignations, Mrs May used an ill-tempered set of exchanges in final Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons to call on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to also quit his post.

After Mr Corbyn accused her of a string of policy failures and U-turns, Mrs May told the opposition leader: "Perhaps I could just finish my exchange with him by saying this: As a party leader who has accepted when her time was up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same?"

Mrs May's performance was watched from the gallery by her husband Philip.

The outgoing PM is giving a final statement in Downing Street before heading to Buckingham Palace to formally resign to the Queen.

On entering Number 10, Mr Johnson will also make an address to the nation – setting out his optimistic vision for the future for a post-Brexit UK.

Allies of Mr Johnson played down the prospect of an early election or a pact with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

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