Elizabeth Anderson: The big names of Brexit

There has been much analysis of Theresa May's new premiership.  As a remain supporter, many were concerned whether she would really make appointments that would be able to deliver the vision of Vote Leave, and whether some of its key ideals would be lost along the way.  This was only compounded by the lack of an election to determine the leadership.  But then came Wednesday evening.  And whilst there is little doubt that the majority of the ministers in her cabinet are remainers rather than Brexiteers, all of the most important posts for exiting the European Union have gone to those who now look to deliver what they championed.

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Boris now ends up in a position where he can carry much of the international influence that he might have sought as leader.  Despite the mockery of the Twitterati, he was an effective ambassador for London across the world - especially in the run up to London 2012, and whatever might be said, is one of the very few politicians who is instantly recognisable to even the least politically engaged, and is next to only Obama in being known by one name.  David Davis, a safe pair of hands and staunch Eurosceptic, is in charge of the negotiations, and with his statement that we could leave by December 2018, is perhaps still planning that we can trigger Article 50 before the end of this year, ensuring that we can't slip back.  And Liam Fox is ideally placed to use his transatlantic connections to broker the trade deals that until a month ago we had no right to consider negotiating, now that we have that freedom.  Davis and Fox won’t even inherit a team – they will be able to handpick their new departmental staff and create the culture they need.  Having these big names in such key posts alleviates quite considerably any doubt in the minds of Leave voting Conservatives that it is a Remain government, even though they are in the minority.  And other key leavers - such as Andrea Leadsom and Priti Patel - have gained strong positions.

Some said that Theresa May's leadership would be a continuation of that of David Cameron - but many of Cameron's biggest supporters have been lost as she creates her top team.  In itself this is entirely reasonable and she sets out to make her mark and form a government that she has full confidence in.  For me, the biggest disappointment is Michael Gove, lost, I suspect, less for any finer feelings relating to Boris, and more due to the long-running disharmony between him and Mrs May.  His vision and integrity (despite the lapse surrounding the leadership) have seen him achieve a great deal since the Conservatives came into government, and perhaps - a little like Liam Fox - he will make a return to the front benches before too long.

The test will inevitably come over the next few months, but by appealing to those on both sides of the European debate through her cabinet appointments, it seems that perhaps she is the person to unify the party, and ensure that it concentrates on delivery of, rather than speculation on, the future of the UK outside the EU.


Elizabeth Anderson is a committed Conservative from south east London, and has held a number of positions in the voluntary and youth wings of the party. She works for a prestigious institution in London, and became involved in politics with the aim of spreading Conservative values.

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