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Boris Johnson accused of ‘cynical rebranding’ after appointing himself ‘Minister for the Union’

Downing Street says the new appelation reflects the prime minister's determination to preserve the United Kingdom

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Friday 26 July 2019 14:52 BST
Who is in Boris Johnson's cabinet?

Scottish nationalists have accused Boris Johnson of an act of “cynical rebranding” after he gave himself the title "minister for the union".

Mr Johnson told the first meeting of his new cabinet on Thursday that he was adopting the new appellation, alongside his freshly-acquired designation as prime minister and First Lord of the Treasury.

It is believed that he is the first PM to take on the minister for the union title, which aides said was a symbol of his determination to maintain the United Kingdom.

His spokesman had no details of any extra duties which the title might involve.

Mr Johnson first proposed the new moniker during the Tory leadership campaign.

In his first speech as PM, he hailed the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the “awesome foursome” and said he wanted to unleash the protective power of every corner of the nation.

But the Scottish National Party’s Westminster deputy leader, Kirsty Blackman MP, said: "Boris Johnson's disastrous plan to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will, and impose Brexit at any cost, threatens to destroy 100,000 Scottish jobs and cost every person in the country £2,300 a year.

"No amount of cynical rebranding can disguise the fact that Scotland is being completely ignored by Westminster, and our interests are being sidelined by the most extreme, right-wing Tory government since Thatcher.

Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks in Parliament (AP)

"It's no wonder polls show a majority of Scots think Boris Johnson will be a 'poor' or 'terrible' prime minister, and want a fresh independence referendum. It's clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests is by becoming an independent European country."

The PM spoke by phone with the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, on Thursday evening, as well as DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill.

Characterising the talks as “positive”, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said that the PM had set out his intention to be “a leader for the whole United Kingdom” and promote prosperity and growth in all parts of the Union.

A spokesman for Mr Drakeford said the conversation was “mutually respectful” and represented the first opportunity for the Welsh first minister to set out the Cardiff administration’s position on Brexit and the impact it could have on the make-up of the UK

“The FM made it emphatically clear that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for Wales – particularly on our agricultural and manufacturing sectors - and would be opposed by the Welsh Government,” said the spokesman.

“The FM told the prime minister that whilst we would continue to prepare as best we could for a no-deal Brexit, no preparation would ever wipe away the profound damage a no-deal Brexit would have on Wales and the rest of the UK.”

Asked about his new title, the spokesman added: “The new prime minister can act in ways which strengthen the union or which add even further to the tensions within it.

"Mr Johnson will need to act very carefully to ensure that he follows the former course and avoids the latter.”

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