Johnson ‘resigns’ but remains in power; reshuffles Cabinet

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Controversy continues in London after British Prime Minister delivered a resignation speech in Downing Street but insisted he would stay on as British Prime Minister until a successor is appointed.

While his statement this lunchtime was widely welcomed, concern remains over his true agenda after he expressed no contrition for the scandals which forced him out and defended his hard-right policy agenda.

There has been dismay at Johnson’s plan to cling onto power until October and his naming of several new Cabinet Ministers, including a new British Direct Ruler in the north of Ireland, Shailesh Vara.

In the wake of the record-breaking collapse of his government, Johnson’s determination to remain in power, even temporarily, has caused a strong reaction within his own party as well as the opposition.

British Labour Leader Keir Starmer says he will table a vote of no confidence at Westminster over what he described as Johnson’s attempts to “cling on” as “caretaker”. Other opposition parties have expressed support, and it is unclear how many of his own backbenchers Johnson can now count on to defeat the motion.

Starmer said “he needs to go completely”, adding “none of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months”. He added: “He’s inflicted lies, fraud and chaos in the country.”

The possibility Mr Johnson could remain until the autumn comes as senior Tories called for a replacement, possibly former PM Theresa May, to bridge the gap until the Tory party conference in October.

Former British PM John Major described Johnson’s bid to remain as PM as “unwise” and “unsustainable”.

In a carefully-worded statement, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “Britain is Ireland’s closest neighbour” and the relationships between the two countries are “long, deep and enduring”.

“Our two Governments working in close partnership is a key underpinning for peace and prosperity on these islands. While Prime Minister Johnson and I engaged actively together, we didn’t always agree, and the relationship between our Governments has been strained and challenged in recent times.

“Our joint responsibilities concerning stewardship of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as nurturing broader bilateral relations between us, require us to work together in a spirit of respect, trust and partnership.

“That is more important than ever today and I would once again urge a pulling back from unilateral action, whether that be on dealing with the legacy of the past, human rights, or the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“We have now an opportunity to return to the true spirit of partnership and mutual respect that is needed to underpin the gains of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Fine Gaels’ Neale Richmond TD was more forthright, and called for “a reset” in Anglo-Irish relations.

“A partner that acts in good faith is now needed,” he said.

“As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has overseen a marked decline in political relations between Ireland and the UK, the lowest ebb since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“His resignation today and pending replacement, offers an opportunity for a reset in both Anglo-Irish and UK-EU relations.”

While Sinn Féin has yet to comment on Johnson’s statement, there were few tears for the departure of Brandon Lewis as British Direct Ruler.

“Brandon Lewis abandoned any pretence of acting with the ‘rigorous impartiality’ required of him under the Good Friday Agreement,” Sinn Fein’s First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill said in a statement.

“He has shamefully placated the DUP by giving them political cover in denying the electorate the democratic representation they are entitled to.

“His actions are preventing Ministers from using £435 million to support workers and families struggling with the rising cost of living crisis, agreeing a three-year budget and putting an additional billion pounds towards fixing our health service.

“He has failed victims and survivors by tearing up the Stormont House Agreement agreed by the two governments and political parties to deal with the past.

“He has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and political stability and his actions gave us a daily reminder why those with no mandate or votes here will only ever act in their own political interests, and not ours.

“The political stability of the North cannot be a hostage to the Tory-in fighting, Westminster chaos and continued DUP disruption.”

So far there has also been no response from any Irish politician to Johnson’s surprise appointment of Shailesh Vara as Lewis’s replacement.

Vara was previously a Minister in Britain’s ‘Northern Ireland Office’ for five months before quitting in protest at Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU in November 2018, calling at the time for a harder Brexit.

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