British Prime Minister Theresa May fired senior government ministers and appointed political rivals to senior roles as her first cabinet took shape on Thursday. Many of former prime minister David Cameron’s close associates were told by May that would not be offered a portfolio in her government on Thursday, which saw the biggest changes to the U.K. cabinet in more than six years.
Finance Minister George Osborne, Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan were among those who were not offered roles while others, including Work & Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, chose to resign.
May’s biggest and most controversial ministerial appointment was former London mayor and lead Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, who became foreign secretary.
Her former rival for the Conservative Party leadership, Andrea Leadsom, became environment secretary while David Davis was handed the newly-created role of secretary of state for exiting the European Union.
Davis will be responsible for negotiating Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc with European leaders while former defense secretary Liam Fox was given a newly-created international trade ministry.
Johnson, Leadsom, Davis and Fox all campaigned for Britain’s exit from the EU unlike May.
Johnson: ‘time to reshape Britain’s profile’
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Boris Johnson described his role as “reshaping Britain’s global profile and identity as a great global player”.
“There is a massive difference between leaving the EU and [leaving] our relations with Europe, which if anything I think is going to be intensified and built-up at an intergovernmental level,” Johnson said.
The appointment of Johnson, known for making colorful and often undiplomatic remarks, was met with surprise around the world.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a radio interview Thursday morning that he had “lied a lot” during the EU referendum campaign and “has his back against the wall”.
But Johnson said Ayrault had since sent him a “charming letter just a couple of hours ago saying how much he looked forward to working together”.