A revenge served cold: Boris Johnson axes widely respected Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox MONTHS after they incurred the wrath of Downing Street
- Smith ousted as NI Secretary weeks after sealing power-sharing deal in province
- A short time later Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was also forced out
- Both are thought to have angered No 10 with actions months ago before Brexit
Julian Smith (pictured with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald) was ousted as Northern Ireland Secretary this morning just weeks after he sealed a widely-supported deal to restart power-sharing in the province
Boris Johnson served his revenge chilled to perfection today as he sacked two senior ministers months after they incurred the wrath of Downing Street.
Julian Smith was ousted as Northern Ireland Secretary this morning just weeks after he sealed a widely-supported deal to restart power-sharing in the province.
He is reported to have angered No 10 over the terms of the deal with relation to prosecutions of British soldiers.
A short time later Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was also forced out, further reducing the number of ministers who also served under Theresa May.
His future is also thought to have been in doubt since last autumn, when he told the PM that proroguing Parliament was ‘lawful and within the constitution’, only for it to be overturned by the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was also forced out, further reducing the number of ministers who also served under Theresa May.
He was replaced by Suella Braverman, the former Brexit minister and hardline Eurosceptic
The sacking of Mr Smith was criticised by politicians on all sides of politics in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
He was replaced by Brandon Lewis despite success in delivering a power-sharing deal in the fragile region, which saw the Northern Ireland Assembly restored after three years of deadlock.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed Mr Smith as ‘one of Britain’s finest politicians of our time’.
And First Minister Arlene Foster, leader of the unionist DUP, praised the outgoing secretary of state for his ‘incredible’ dedication.
Downing Street reportedly felt left out of the loop over the terms of the deal Mr Smith was negotiating last month.
There are concerns in Tory circles that the agreement includes an investigation into alleged crimes by British soldiers during the Troubles.
But those close to Mr Smith insisted that Number 10 and the Prime Minister had been kept fully informed about the terms of the Stormont arrangement.
Marty Adams, from historical abuse victims’ campaign group Survivors Together, drew parallels with Mo Mowlam, the former Labour Northern Ireland secretary who was demoted by Tony Blair only six months after delivering the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Mr Smith was replaced by Brandon Lewis despite success in delivering a power-sharing deal in Belfast (pictured with Boris Johnson, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill)
Relatively unknown in Westminster before becoming Attorney General in 2018, Mr Cox became a key player in Theresa May’s government in the run up to the original March 29, 2019 Brexit deadline.
He announced himself on the national political scene with a barnstorming speech as the warm up act for Mrs May at Conservative Party conference in October 2018.
With his booming voice and soaring rhetoric he left many in the conference hall wondering why he wasn’t the prime minister.
His professional opinion would later have a major impact on Britain’s departure from the EU.
MPs wrestled with the government as they demanded Mr Cox’s Brexit legal advice be published with the Commons eventually victorious in the contest.
The publication of the legal advice in December 2018 torpedoed Mrs May’s hopes of getting her Brexit deal through parliament because in it Mr Cox said the UK could not unilaterally leave the Irish border backstop protocol if it was ever implemented.
But last year he blotted his copybook in the eyes of No 10.
The government’s chief law officer advised Mr Johnson that there was no problem with his prorogation plan, and any criticism would be ‘politically motivated’.
But the eminent QC was embarrassed after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the suspension was illegal and an ‘extreme’ move to ‘frustrate’ debate on Brexit.
At the time a spokeswoman for his office said: ‘The Government acted in good faith and in the belief that its approach was both lawful and constitutional.
‘These are complex matters on which senior and distinguished lawyers have disagreed.’