As PM Boris Johnson resigns, has anything changed for the UK's trade agenda?

Thu 7 Jul 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Boris Johnson and Anne-Marie Trevelyan attending the recent Spring Showcase event in 10 Downing Street (Photo credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street, Flickr)

Prime minister Boris Johnson has today (7 July) announced that he is stepping down from leading the Conservative Party, but is planning to continue in Downing Street as caretaker leader until his successor is in place.

A timetable for the selection of the new Conservative Party leader will begin next week, he said, with foreign secretary Liz Truss and current trade minister Penny Mordaunt rumoured to be among the frontrunners.

“The PM has made the right decision,” Liz Truss has tweeted.

Whether Johnson will be allowed to continue as caretaker leader by his party is unclear, but he has today been appointing ministers following resignations from over 50 of his MPs from the cabinet over the last two days.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer and senior Liberal Democrats have said they will call a vote of no confidence in the government if Johnson stays on as caretaker, Sky News reports.

What Johnson said

Johnson said he was “extremely proud” to have completed the UK’s departure from the EU, “resetting relations with the continent”.

He also listed the vaccine rollout and backing Ukraine in its war with Russia among his achievements.

He said it was “painful” that he will not be able to see through the rest of his agenda and that he was sad to be giving up “the best job in the world”.

“But them’s the breaks,” he added.

Who’s in the interim Cabinet

Johnson’s cabinet appointments today are likely to only be temporary, with his replacement expected to announce their own team.

Appointments today include:

  • Shailesh Vara as Northern Ireland secretary
  • Robert Buckland as Welsh secretary
  • James Cleverly as education secretary
  • Greg Clark as levelling up secretary
  • Kit Malthouse as Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster

Nadhim Zahawi was appointed the new chancellor on Tuesday evening, but was nonetheless among the ministers to have urged Johnson to resign.

Stephen Barclay – once head of the now-defunct Department for Exiting the EU – replaced Sajid Javid as health secretary.

Who else resigned

Javid and Rishi Sunak began the wave of resignations on Tuesday. Over 50 colleagues have followed suit.

Exports minister Mike Freer was among those to resign, alongside five trade envoys and Peter Gibson, a parliamentary private secretary in the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis was among the Tory MPs to resign today.

Former international trade secretary Dr Liam Fox was also one of the MPs calling on Johnson to step down.

What's changed for UK trade?

1. People

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and trade minister Penny Mordaunt remain in Johnson’s cabinet (at the time this article was published: 5pm Thursday 7 July), though Mordaunt is among the favourites to succeed him.

Trevelyan has tweeted her thanked for Johnson for his "service to our country".

"He was able to deliver Brexit, beyond all the odds, allowing us to take back control of our decision-making as a country," she wrote.

2. Trade deals

Sources close to DIT have told Politico’s Pro Morning Trade UK bulletin (£) that negotiations for the UK’s trade deals will continue at an official level while the Conservatives decide their new leader.

Talks are ongoing for the UK to sign new deals with countries including India, Mexico, Canada and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The UK’s trade deal with Australia is currently due to be ratified before 20 July.

3. Northern Ireland Protocol

The committee stage for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is still due to begin on 13 July.