Wales politics

Boris Johnson has vacated centre ground, says Mark Drakeford

Mark Drakeford and Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mark Drakeford has urged Boris Johnson to show maturity as prime minister

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has "vacated the centre ground of British politics" in constructing his top team, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The new UK cabinet saw 17 former senior ministers sacked or stepping down and Brexiteers including Jacob Rees Mogg, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab promoted.

Mr Drakeford said "almost exclusively" people from "one strand of opinion" in the Tory party had been appointed.

But the Welsh Secretary said Mr Johnson would bind the UK Union together.

Alun Cairns remains in place at the Wales Office, after changes in which his counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland returned to the back benches.

Commenting on Mr Johnson's new cabinet, Mr Drakeford told BBC Wales: "My fear is the incoming prime minister has vacated the centre ground of British politics, he has vacated the centre ground of his own party.

"He has formed an administration drawn almost exclusively from people who belong to one strand of opinion inside the Conservative Party."

The Welsh Labour leader also expressed concern that the gap between the Welsh Government's priorities and those of the UK Government had "grown over the last 24 hours as a result of sort of the cabinet that he has fashioned".

Mr Johnson has promised to work hard to strike a new departure deal with the EU but repeatedly stated that the UK will leave on 31 October with or without a deal with the bloc.

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Media captionBoris Johnson told MPs Britain will be “clean, green, prosperous, united, confident and ambitious”.

Mr Drakeford said he feared the likelihood of a no-deal exit from the EU had increased, and has written a joint letter with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanding he immediately rule out an option that would be "catastrophic for all parts of the UK".

Calling for a further referendum on EU membership, the two first ministers say in the letter: "It would be unconscionable for a UK Government to contemplate a chaotic no deal exit and we urge you to reject this possibility clearly and unambiguously as soon as possible."

They also ask that "while the prospect of a no deal exit exists - despite the differences between our governments - there must be strong and constructive joint planning and action to mitigate the effects so far as possible".

The prime minister said he had read and noted the letter during a phone conversation with Mr Drakeford on Thursday evening, according to the first minister's spokesman.

In what was described as a "mutually respectful conversation", Mr Drakeford set out his position on Brexit and the impact it could have on the makeup of the UK, telling Mr Johnson a no-deal Brexit would have a "catastrophic impact" on Wales.

A Downing Street spokesman later described the discussion as "positive".

Earlier, the first minister told BBC Wales: "No deal was never on any ballot paper at the referendum or in the last in the general election, so there is a real democratic issue here too."

"The idea that a prime minister would seek to circumvent the House Of Commons, would seek to carry out such a fundamental course of action in the teeth of the opposition of our democratic forums in Wales, in Scotland, in parliament I think that gives rise to really, really fundamentally serious issues and I can't see how it can be done," he added.

Mr Cairns highlighted what he called Mr Johnson's commitment to animal welfare standards, recruiting 20,000 extra police officers, more fibre broadband and research and development growth.

"That is a domestic agenda that will bind the Union of the United Kingdom together, will improve the quality of life for so many people as well as taking those great opportunities outside of the European Union as well as staying close with a deep and special partnership with Europe," he said.

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