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May’s New Government: ‘Brexit Means Brexit’

Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle is complete. She has made clear she intends to pursue withdrawal from the EU as promised and has entrusted the job to prominent backers of the Leave campaign. Not only did she give the “Brexit” appointment to a longtime Euroskeptic, David Davis, but went so far as to make Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary. When May said during the leadership race that “Brexit means Brexit,” it appears that she wasn’t just telling her party what most of them wanted to hear.

As more than a few people have pointed out, Johnson won’t be left with much to do because international trade and development and “Brexit” will be handled by other ministers. Even so, Johnson is a goofy and indeed risible choice if he is judged on the merits. He has a long record of insulting other countries and foreign leaders, his name is synonymous with irresponsibility and clownishness, and his European colleagues will view him with special contempt. May was probably aware that selecting Johnson for this position would be greeted with derision, so I assume that she did it as a sop to Leave and Johnson supporters within the party that both want to be placated after the leadership race.

James Forsyth comments on the significance of the Davis appointment:

The David Davis appointment is particularly striking. He resigned, unexpectedly, from David Cameron’s shadow Cabinet. Putting him in charge of these negotiations, shows Tory MPs that May isn’t interested in any backsliding on the referendum result for everyone thinks that Davis would walk if she attempted that.

“Brexit” seems more likely to happen under the reluctant Remainer May than it would have been if Johnson had become prime minister.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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