Wales politics

Boris Johnson: What might the new prime minister mean for Wales?

Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson took a trip to Barry Island before the Cardiff hustings

Boris Johnson is set to address the nation as prime minister in Downing Street on Wednesday - so what might his premiership mean for Wales?

He began his appeal to Welsh Tories, at the party's leadership hustings in Cardiff, by reminding them he began his political career as a candidate in Clwyd South in 1997.

Two decades on, Mr Johnson was briefed by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns before he took to the stage, and he consulted him on points of detail during the speech.

With the new PM expected to start putting together his team of top ministers almost immediately after visiting the Queen on Wednesday, it would be a surprise if he were to eject Mr Cairns from the Wales Office.

The Vale of Glamorgan MP, who backed Mr Johnson's leadership bid, is said to be "hopeful" of continuing as Wales' man around the UK cabinet table, and the indications are that he will remain in that post.

Anything seems possible in politics these days, but maybe a change at junior level at the Wales Office is much more likely?

We have had a succession of MPs who represent English seats as Wales Office ministers recently, the latest being Torbay MP Kevin Foster, but perhaps we might see a Welsh MP back in that role.

Image caption David Davies has previously urged both sides of the Brexit divide to be willing to compromise

Brexiteer Monmouth MP David Davies is a possibility.

Although regarded in the past by some as a bit of a loose cannon, he is said to have impressed Conservative colleagues as chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

And that loose cannon charge could equally be said of Mr Johnson himself.

He told BBC Wales: "I'm going to support Boris Johnson whatever happens. If there's an offer to be a minister obviously I would accept.

"It's no secret that I would like to serve in the Wales Office. But if that does not happen, I'm happy to chair the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and support Boris anyway."

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, who has risen to prominence as chair of the Brexit Delivery Group of Tory MPs, might also be in with a shout.

The choice of Welsh MPs available to the incoming prime minister is a little narrower than it previously was.

There are currently seven Welsh Conservative MPs and the outcome of next week's Brecon and Radnorshire by-election will decide whether their number returns to the eight elected in 2017.

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Media captionBoris Johnson: "Dude! We are going to energise the country"

A new prime minister is also a chance to ask the well-worn question of whether the Wales Office will be scrapped - merged into some sort of ministry of the nations.

Yet, apart from the merits and de-merits of this, there is unlikely to be much appetite for it when the government has so much else weighing down its in-tray.

Boris Johnson has promised a new "Union unit", which Mr Cairns says would consider the impact of day-to-day issues on the UK union as a whole.

The aim is to make the UK government more sensitive to how decisions impact on the different nations of the UK, and to make better use of the powers still reserved for Westminster.

The new Conservative leader is well known for liking to get behind big projects.

Could plans for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station, currently on ice, be thawed out under a Johnson premiership?

Might he offer Welsh ministers UK government cash for an M4 relief road south of Newport, rather than a loan?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by 92,153 votes to 46,656 to become Tory Leader and PM

Let speculation begin.

No doubt Mr Johnson, like Theresa May, will want to stress his premiership is about much more than Brexit, but that will be far from easy.

His pledge to leave the EU at the end of October, "do or die", will mean conflict with a Welsh Government that issues warnings about the dangers of a no-deal departure as regularly as most of us brush our teeth.

His suggestion there should be a "strong Conservative influence" over how cash replacing EU aid after Brexit is spent has already raised the hackles of Wales' Labour first minister.

Mr Johnson's pledge he would match the cash Wales currently gets from EU funds has been welcomed by Mark Drakeford.

However, Wales gets by far the lion's share of EU structural funds, and Conservative MPs elsewhere might well have something to say about that promise.

Of course, the key impact on Wales from PM Johnson will be decided by where the rollercoaster of Brexit itself eventually ends up.

No-deal, a deal, an extension to EU membership, a general election, a further referendum, your guess is as good as ours.

All scenarios would have major implications for the Welsh economy and public services.

Politics as normal, in Wales and across the UK as a whole, seems as far away as the eye can see.

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