(Bloomberg) — Boris Johnson will appoint top ministers to his cabinet on Monday as he pushes ahead with Brexit, emboldened by the historic majority he won in last week’s British general election.
The prime minister needs to fill the roles of culture secretary, Welsh secretary and environment minister that were vacated after Nicky Morgan quit politics, Alun Cairns was forced to resign and Zac Goldsmith lost his seat.
Johnson will name his senior team as he welcomes 109 new Conservative members of Parliament to London to take their seats in the House of Commons.
After years of political chaos following the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, Johnson reordered Britain’s political landscape with a resounding victory over Labour in the Dec. 12 election. With his 80-seat majority — the biggest Tory win for 32 years — Johnson now has the power to implement his vision for Brexit and for reshaping the economy.
But he faces a longer term battle to stop Scotland splitting away from the rest of the country. Last Thursday’s vote gave the Scottish National Party a near clean sweep of seats north of the border, taking districts from Johnson’s Tories on the strength of a promise to oppose Brexit and campaign for another vote on independence.
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon — who is first minister of Scotland — says the election now gives her a mandate for a fresh referendum on whether to become an independent country, after voters chose to stay part of the U.K. in 2014.
Scotland “cannot be imprisoned” in the U.K. “against its will,” Sturgeon told BBC TV on Sunday. “If the United Kingdom is to continue, then it can only be by consent.”
On Sunday, Johnson’s team gave its most emphatic rejection of Sturgeon’s demand so far, ruling out a second Scottish independence referendum. “We are not going to have an independence referendum in Scotland,” Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Sky News. But the argument is unlikely to go away.
Johnson, meanwhile, plans to plow on with taking the U.K. out of the EU by the Jan. 31 deadline. His office said he will introduce a law to deliver Brexit before Christmas. This will be the government’s first priority.
On Thursday, Johnson will announce his program for government in a Queen’s Speech building on the agenda put forward in October. The monarch will make a new speech outlining the plans, which include a bill to enshrine in law an extra 34 billion pounds ($45 billion) per year of pledged spending on health care by 2024. The NHS became a crucial battleground during the election and Johnson has said he is determined to honor his pledges to voters to safeguard state health care.
After Brexit, a reorganization of government is widely expected. An official familiar with the matter said that the Brexit department will be scrapped. The Sunday Times reported that the energy and climate change department — abolished by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May — will be recreated, with the business and international trade departments merged.
While the prime minister pushes ahead with his plans, the main opposition Labour Party is gearing up for a leadership battle that’s likely to pit candidates loyal to the defeated leader Jeremy Corbyn against more moderate MPs who want to reclaim the political center ground.
Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell said the party will have a new leader before elections in London and local districts next May. He touted the party’s spokeswomen for business, education and women, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler as potential candidates, as well as justice spokesman Richard Burgon. Backbencher Lisa Nandy told the BBC on Sunday that she’s “seriously” thinking about running.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at [email protected], Ian Fisher
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