The cabinet reshuffle: looking on the bright side

Sesha Subramanian considers the benefit of a cabinet reshuffle that was widely seen as a consolidation of Number 10 power

Sesha Subramanian
25th February 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons
There has been a lot of talk about how the new cabinet reshuffle is a power grab by 10 Downing Street. The feeling was compounded by the resignation of Sajid Javid as Chancellor, and his replacement by Rishi Sunak, widely seen as a yes-man for the Prime Minister. But once these changes are looked at through a different perspective, it starts to make a little more sense.

The cabinet reshuffle is being talked about as a form of centralisation – a way of making 10 Downing Street the most powerful it has ever been in recent times – and this view is not without merit. But when looked at through the eyes of Brexit (among other things), the changes make more sense. Brexit may have been downplayed in the recent news cycle, but it remains the key issue this year for the United Kingdom. In 10 months, Prime Minister Johnson’s promise of leaving the EU with or without trade deals will come to fruition. This means that the government has 10 months in which to sort out as much as it can, and get the UK out as unscathed as possible. The last thing Number 10 needs now is a stubborn, disagreeable cabinet that'll hold Johnson back.

After the reshuffle, cabinet has become more malleable in Brexit negotiations

Suella Braverman, the new Attorney General for England and Wales
Image: Wikipedia

When the transition period comes to an end, Britain has acknowledged that there will be friction at the borders when the first lorries roll off in Calais and Dover. And that is even if it secures a Canada-style trade deal (the ideal scenario). At the moment, the two sides of the negotiating table are quite far apart, but there is most definitely room for malleability, especially with key sources of cabinet in-fighting vanquished.

Cabinet will also become more useful in matters relating to Northern Ireland

Another key aspect of the negotiations with the EU is Northern Ireland. Both the government and EU have differing views on what checks mean when it comes to the border there. Having an Attorney General like Suella Braverman will be more beneficial to the government when it comes to advising them on their legal obligations under Northern Irish protocol. Brandon Lewis as Northern Ireland Secretary will also create a more cohesive cabinet, capable of leaning towards the position that 10 Downing takes.

For the first time in years, every great office of state is now held by someone who campaigned to get out of the EU in 2016. The point of Brexit was to leave EU: any difference of opinion in cabinet – while good for discussion and debate – will only slow down the time-bound and crucial process.

The view against the reshuffle can be read here:

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