Boris Johnson named FM in new British cabinet

Former London mayor and leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson will become foreign secretary

Published: Updated:

Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and campaign heavyweight who helped lead Britain to vote to leave the EU in the June referendum has been appointed foreign secretary in the new cabinet rollout by Theresa May, the UK's freshly-appointed prime minister.

Johnson, who enjoys widespread popular support which at times even threatened to overshadow former Prime Minister David Cameron’s own following, dropped out of the leadership race late last month.

May appointed several other prominent party figures to key cabinet posts on Wednesday, hours after replacing David Cameron as head of the UK’s government.

May, 59, who has often been dubbed by the British press as a ‘steely’ figure – an allusion at late premier Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Iron Lady’ moniker, seemed to waste no time after taking up the reins of power.

Former foreign secretary Philip Hammond has become Britain's new chancellor of the exchequer, a post equivalent to finance minister. Hammond replaces George Osborne who quit the government after Theresa May was appointed prime minister. Osbourne, who had plead for Britons to remain in the EU, has quit.

As the second lord of the Treasury - the prime minister is the first - Hammond takes over 11 Downing Street, the office next door to the prime minister at Number 10.

The flat above Number 11 is bigger than the flat above number 10. Prime ministers Cameron and Tony Blair opted to take the Number 11 flat and May could well follow suit, leaving Hammond living above Number 10.

Old faces

Former energy minister Amber Rudd, meanwhile, was appointed home secretary. She was a high-profile campaigner for the losing “Remain” side.

Michael Fallon, another key voice for the ‘Leave’ campaign, will remain as defense secretary, reprising his role in Cameron’s cabinet.

Euroskeptic Conservative lawmaker David Davis named UK minister tasked with leading Britain out of the EU. Davis’s position in the cabinet has been freshly created by May, and will is expected to be unveiled with lengthy leaving negotiations with Brussels.

May was appointed premier in the wake of last month's momentous referendum to leave the European Union that sent shockwaves around the world and toppled her predecessor Cameron.

Britain’s ‘precious bond’

Earlier on Wednesday, to a sea of cordoned-off crowd of reporters and onlookers who had gathered outside Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, May promised to protect the “precious bond of the United Kingdom.”

“Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change and I know because we are Great Britain, we will rise to the challenge,” she added.

“As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world.”

May and her husband Philip then waved and posed for the cameras outside Downing Street before going inside.

Earlier, an official image showed May curtseying to the queen during an audience at Buckingham Palace. Under Britain’s unwritten constitution, it is up to the monarch to ask the leader of the party that commands a majority in the House of Commons to form a government.

May is set to become the UK's second female prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher.

European leaders have asked the government to move quickly to renegotiate its relationship with the EU but May has indicated she will not be rushed into triggering the formal procedure for Brexit.

May also has to attempt to bridge Conservative Party divisions and deal with a potential economic downturn.

Her other daunting challenges include keeping pro-EU Scotland from bidding for independence in order to stay in the 28-nation bloc, and weaving new global trade and diplomatic alliances to prepare for a post-Brexit future.

Clouds start to disperse

May campaigned with Cameron for Britain to stay in the EU and she will also have to convince Brexit supporters that she will implement the result of the June 23 referendum to leave the EU as she has promised.

May has previously sought to quell accusations that she would try to keep Britain from leaving the Brussels-based bloc. “There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door.... Brexit means Brexit,” she said in her June 30 speech announcing her bid to replace Cameron.

May's bid for his job accelerated as key proponents of Britain's EU withdrawal, including charismatic former mayor of London Boris Johnson, stepped back in a head-spinning round of political bloodletting.

The vote exposed deep inequalities in British society which May has promised to address and upended the political scene, sending her Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party into turmoil.

"Theresa May's virtual 'coronation' as prime minister has delivered a boost to the pound as the clouds of uncertainty following the Brexit vote start to disperse," said market analyst Neil Wilson at ETX Capital, a financial trading company in London.

The political stability brought by May’s upcoming arrival to the top job has strengthen the ailing pound. On Wednesday, sterling went up 2.3 percent against the dollar.

May is expected to begin announcing cabinet picks later on Wednesday and these could reportedly include current energy minister Amber Rudd, foreign minister Philip Hammond and Brexit campaigner Chris Grayling, the Conservatives' House of Commons leader.

May is tasked with putting together a new post-Cameron cabinet – and is set to appoint a record number of women to ministerial posts, The Times reported.

She must also be careful to ensure that many of her cabinet members are pro-Brexit, and must also appoint one new minister in to be in charge of steering Britain out of the EU.

Middle East stance

Through Cameron’s premiership, May has backed most of his decisions and followed the party line. She voted in favor of military action in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and in 2010 voted to keep British troops deployed in Afghanistan.

In 2013, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime allegedly used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb, she also backed Cameron in his failed bid for military action in Syria.

In 2003, while Conservative party chairman, she voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

The daughter of a Church of England vicar, May is a cricket fan with a sober, well-mannered demeanour who lists her hobbies as cooking and walking.

She shows a flash of flamboyance with a colourful shoe collection -- particularly her leopard-skin heels -- which has become famous in the British press.