PM takes control and sacks Cummings as Hancock assures no vax delay even if no-deal

#Brexit special section Commentary Downing Street

Boris Johnson has taken control of Number 10 by sacking his chief adviser Dominic Cummings just 11 disastrous months after the chief advisor delivered a landslide election victory.

It is also just seven weeks until the end of the UK’s transition period from the EU and Cummings’ exit from Number 10 follows fast behind director of communications Lee Cain’s departure. In two days Johnson has lost his top-two closest advisors and key architects of the government’s Brexit policy.

Real fears that policy aims for a no-deal outcome reverberate in every sector and health secretary Matt Hancock tried to reassure the country that even in the event of a no-deal, there will be no delay to the UK accessing the coronavirus vaccination.

‘We’ve got a plan for all eventualities’

“We have a plan for the vaccine which is being manufactured in Belgium, and if necessary we can fly in order to avoid those problems,” said Hancock, adding: “We’ve got a plan for all eventualities.”

But still no plan for Brexit give the negotiations between Michel Barnier and Lord [David] Frost will resume again on Monday with little sign of progress or deadlock being broken.

The latest “unofficial deadline” for an agreement – Thursday’s EU summit where the leaders of 27 countries were expected to ratify a deal – “will almost certainly be missed”, reports the Telegraph.

The last summit of the year is December 10 and has become Barnier’s “absolute latest” deadline for a negotiated deal to be reached. It will then need approval from EU leaders and ratification from MEPs in the European parliament. The UK’s transition period for leaving the EU expires on December 31 and will trade on WTO terms from January 1 if no–deal is reached.

Cummings and Cain may have left the building but they are still officially employed until mid-December and the BBC said it “understands he [Cummings] will continue to work from home” until then.

Which will be after Barnier’s “absolute deadline” for a negotiated deal, December 10.

PM wants to ‘clear the air and move on’

The Guardian describes Cumming’s going as a “dramatic end to a tumultuous era” and any speculation on the influence Cummings can exert from outside No10 will be tempered by the very public nature of his exit and the shift of power to Johnson’s fiancé Carrie Symonds and his new press secretary Allegra Stratton.

Many Conservative MPs are jubilant with the sacking. That Cummings delivered an 80 majority for the PM – as well as winning the EU referendum for Leave – has not been forgotten, but neither has it been sentimentalised. Cummings did little to develop relations with the backbenchers he helped get elected. He launched attacks on the civil service and the BBC in pursuit of radical institutional reform, illegally prorogued parliament and has a UK government passing a law in order to break international law. He also went to Durham and Barnard Castle.

As chief advisor and reputed super-forecaster Cummings is blamed for the government’s serial failings, multiple U-turns and all round incompetence.

Along with the prime minister.

Johnson is reported to want to “clear the air and move on”. There is after all a pandemic to deal with and an economy to recover. And, of course, he still has to get Brexit done. While a very different US president readies to take over the White House.

Johnson’s success in dealing with these converging crises – without his two key advisors – will determine how long he has left at No10.

His time so far suggests, it won’t be long at all.

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