Boris Johnson building ‘White House centre of power’ to help get Brexit trade deal sorted

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Experts say Prime Minister Boris Johnson is forming an “integrated” system in Number 10, which will mean he is able to deliver policy change quickly and extend its “reach into departments”, meaning the Government will have more reach into international trade departments. Alex Thomas, a former senior civil servant and Whitehall for the Institute for Government expert, said: “Boris Johnson’s frustration with the comparatively small support structure in Number 10 means it’s likely he’ll build a stronger centre – either an actual Department of the PM or something like that in all but name; a model more like the White House.”

A civil servant added: “It feels like the aim of this administration is to have a bit more of a presidential style, where the centre controls things a little bit more.”

It comes as Mr Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings make steps to streamline the Government and make reforms to the civil service ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU.

Mr Cummings has previously attacked senior civil servants for allegedly plotting to keep the UK closely tied to Brussels after Brexit.

He warned he was planning a major shake-up of the Whitehall system and said civil servants must accept that the UK’s transition out of EU regulations, due to end on December 31, will not be extended.

These moves include making political appointments to the civil service, joining the Treasury closer to Number 10 and enforcing discipline on departmental advisers.

A former special adviser told politics news site, “We’ve now got a Number 10 that is not just part of Whitehall; it will be more integrated than ever.

“Make no mistake – Boris and Dom are in control here.”

They said Mr Johnson “could be a bit ruthless” but added: “That’s also okay because Johnson has a huge mandate and you have got to get done what you want to get done in government”.

It comes after Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm spoke of the need to reform the UK’s civil service ahead of Brexit and in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

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Mr Chisholm said that at least 80 percent of related civil service work had so far been focused on the work required to unshackle from the bloc.

He said after the end of the transition period on 31 December, the task will instead switch to “what we do afterwards and our responsibility to develop our own machine”.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union for top civil servants, added: “The centralisation of power is clear for everyone to see.

“That’s why there’s a lot of focus around reform of the Cabinet Office when they talk about civil service reform. It’s actually a reform of the control mechanisms in government.”

Mr Johnson has raised eyebrows over the number of political appointments he has made in Whitehall since he became Prime Minister.


The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost in line to be named national security adviser.

While, Brexiteers Henry De Zoete and Gisela Stuart were made non-executive directors at the Cabinet Office.

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