Key UK players
Theresa May: Mrs May became leader of the Conservative Party on 11 July 2016 and Prime Minister of the UK on 13 July 2016. She has set up a cabinet committee on Brexit which will function as the key decision-making body on the Brexit process for the UK (Politico and Financial Times). (Cabinet committees are set up and appointed by the prime minister and their decisions are binding on the government as a whole). A full list of the ministerial appointments made in July 2016 is available on the Cabinet Office’s website. Further biographical information on Mrs May is available on the PM’s constituency website.
Boris Johnson: On 13 July 2016, Boris Johnson, was appointed Foreign Secretary, and as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs he has responsibility for the work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with particular focus on: policy unit, honours, intelligence policy and cyber-security. There are a number of biographies of Boris Johnson, including a detailed one available on Wikipedia.
David Davis: On 13 July 2016, David Davis was appointed Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. He has responsibility for the work of the Department for Exiting the European Union, including: policy work to support the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union and to establish the future relationship between the EU and the UK; working very closely with the UK’s devolved administrations, Parliament, and a wide range of other interested parties on what the approach to those negotiations should be; conducting the negotiations in support of the prime minister including supporting bilateral discussions on EU exit with other European countries; and as head of exit negotiations, leading and coordinating cross-government work to seize the opportunities and ensure a smooth process of exit on the best possible terms. Further biographical information is available on David Davis’s constituency website.
Liam Fox: On 13 July 2016, Liam Fox was appointed Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. He has responsibility for the work of the Department for International Trade, including: developing, coordinating and delivering a new trade and investment policy to promote UK business across the globe; developing and negotiating free trade agreements and market access deals with non-EU countries; negotiating plurilateral trade deals (focused on specific sectors or products); providing operational support for exports; and facilitating inward and outward investment. Further biographical information is available on Liam Fox’s constituency website.
Priti Patel: On 14 July 2016, Priti Patel was appointed Secretary of State for International Development. While Priti Patel is not one of the three ministers having a formal Brexit role, she sits on the Brexit cabinet committee and made it clear that the Department for International Development (DFID) will use its presence overseas to support British firms by making ‘economic development’ a priority of her department. However, as highlighted by Global Justice Now, the International Development Act (2002) enshrines in law the principle that aid money can only be spent on the reduction of poverty, so ‘trade for aid’ is unlawful unless the primary motivation is that of combating poverty. Further biographical information is available on Priti Patel’s constituency website.
Hilary Benn: On 19 October 2016, Hilary Benn was elected as chair of the new Commons Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. The government has also committed to engage with Parliament on exiting the European Union, a question covered in the exchange of letters between Hilary Benn and David Davis (as published on the Select Committee’s website).
Michael Gove: On 26 October 2016, Michael Gove was appointed to the new Commons Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. The appointment would appear to mark his rehabilitation following his actions in the aftermath of the referendum. There are a number of biographies of Michael Gove, including a detailed one available on Wikipedia.
Tim Barrow: On 4 January 2017, Tim Barrow was appointed as the UK’s Permanent Resident to the EU (i.e. Ambassador to the EU) following the resignation of Ivan Rogers who wrote a controversial resignation letter that was leaked to the press.
Nicola Sturgeon: On 14 November 2014, Nicola Sturgeon became the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and was sworn in as First Minister on 20 November 2014. In the weeks that followed the outcome of the UK referendum on Brexit, and with an eye on the possibility of holding a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from the rest of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon was quick to put forward a case for Scotland staying in the EU based on the high proportion of voters in Scotland who voted ‘Remain’ compared to those who voted ‘Leave’. On 28 March 2017, the possibility of a second referendum increased with members of the Scottish Parliament voting 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU, and this was followed by Mrs Sturgeon’s 31 March 2017 letter to Mrs May requesting a Section 30 order which would allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a second referendum. The timing of a referendum, however, is very much in question. The UK government would need to give permission, and further to Mrs May’s statements on the matter, Scottish Secretary David Mundell told the BBC that the timescale for any negotiation with Scotland on a second referendum could include ‘the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum’.
Carwyn Jones: On 18 May 2016, Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader in the Welsh Assembly since 9 December 2009, was reappointed as First Minister of Wales. He had served as First Minister since 10 December 2009. Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, ‘Leave’ voters in Wales exceeded ‘Remain’ voters. He has suggested that all four parliaments in the UK should be part of the Brexit negotiations and the greatest buy-in would be achieved if the agreement was also ratified by the four parliaments – a position he reiterated in a letter to Theresa May that preceded the 25 October 2016 Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) and repeated on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 30 March 2017. Nonetheless there is a view that Westminster and Cardiff are closer than they were on Brexit, although this does not take into account a number of issues including the repatriation of powers from the EU directly to the devolved administrations.
Arlene Foster: Arlene Foster has been the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since December 2015 and served as First Minister of Northern Ireland from January 2016 until January 2017, when the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuiness, an Irish republican Sinn Féin politician resigned, triggering an election that was held on 2 March 2017. While the DUP remains the largest party, a Northern Ireland executive has yet to be formed and if the deadlock is not broken, the British government would be expected, under the power-sharing rules, to take Northern Ireland back under direct rule. Like Scotland, ‘Remain’ voters in Northern Ireland exceeded those who voted ‘Leave’. Moreover, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another EU member state, so how this border will be managed under Brexit is a key concern and one addressed in Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech, her 29 March 2017 Article 50 letter and the 31 March 2017 European Council draft guidelines.
Sadiq Khan: On 9 May 2016, Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London. In the days following the outcome of the UK referendum on Brexit, Sadiq Khan called for devolution of powers to London, prompted by the number of ‘Remain’ voters in London exceeding those who voted ‘Leave’. He reiterated this position at the January 2017 London Government Dinner where he also announced that London will write its own industrial strategy to feed into the government’s UK-wide industrial strategy white paper. He also believes London should have a seat at the Brexit negotiating table and has sought to convince European politicians and business leaders that a bad Brexit deal that hurts London would hurt the EU as well.
Mark Carney: On 1 July 2013, Mark Carney joined the Bank of England as Governor and Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee, and the Board of the Prudential Regulation Authority. While he will not be directly involved in the government’s negotiations, comments from the Governor on the possible economic impacts of Brexit are closely monitored. It is likely that his statement to the House of Commons’ Treasury Select Committee that Brexit was no longer the biggest risk to the UK’s financial stability provided a helpful economic context for the government’s Brexit strategy that was set out in the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech. More recently, in the first week of April 2017, he joined UK Chancellor Philip Hammond on a business delegation to Delhi and Mumbai.
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