Julian Smith sacked by Boris Johnson just weeks after brokering Stormont deal

Posted On: 
13th February 2020

Julian Smith has been sacked as Northern Ireland secretary despite brokering a deal to get the Stormont government back up and running just weeks ago.

Julian Smith has been sacked as Northern Ireland Secretary by Boris Johnson
Credit: 
PA Images

Boris Johnson delivered the news in his Commons office as he kicked off his eagerly-anticipated reshuffle on Thursday morning.

The business secretary Andrea Leadsom, environment secretary Theresa Villiers, and the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox have also been removed from their Cabinet roles.

Julian Smith breaks ranks with PM to brand no-deal Brexit ‘very bad’ for Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson calls on Stormont to 'deliver for the people' after Assembly is restored

Power-sharing returns to Stormont after Sinn Fein says it supports devolution deal

Mr Smith, who served as Theresa May’s Chief Whip, was thought to be secure in his spot after helping secure the restoration of the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive.

But he tweeted after his meeting with the Prime Minister: “Serving the people of Northern Ireland has been the biggest privilege.

“I am extremely grateful to Boris Johnson for giving me the chance to serve this amazing part of our country.

“The warmth and support from people across Northern Ireland has been incredible. Thank you so much.”

The agreement last month between Sinn Fein and the DUP to get the Northern Ireland Assembly going, after being shuttered for three years, was initially hailed as a triumph for Mr Smith and a tangible achievement for Mr Johnson’s achievement.

He was even awarded “Minister of the year” by the Spectator magazine a fortnight ago.

But there were reports the PM felt “blindsided” by the deal, which includes a controversial clause over investigations into historical allegations against British soldiers during the Troubles.

A senior government source told The Times: “There is concern about the way he’s been operating."

Ms Leadsom revealed news of her sacking on social media, tweeting: “It has been a real privilege to serve in Government for the last six years, and in BEIS for six months.

“I now look forward to focusing on my constituents and on my 20+ year campaign to see every baby get the best start in life."

Ms Villiers said Mr Johnson told her she needed to go "to make way for someone new", saying in a statement: "What the Prime Minister giveth, the Prime Minister taketh away."

Mr Johnson is expected to hand promotions to a string of female Conservative MPs later, including Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Suella Braverman and Gillian Keegan.

The changes will mean there is a 50-50 split between male and female Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, Downing Street said.

And the number of female members of the Cabinet will remain the same, despite speculation that a number of them were being lined up for the axe.