British PM starts reshuffle of cabinet after election victory

12-29 Xinhua

LONDON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson started to re-assemble his front bench team Monday night as deadline of Brexit is approaching.

Conservative Nicky Morgan, who decided not to seek re-election in last week's general election, has been kept on by Johnson as a member of his cabinet as Culture Secretary, even though she no longer sits in the House of Commons.

It came after Queen Elizabeth II conferred a peerage on Morgan which entitles her to sit in the unelected House of Lords, and to serve in the government as a minister.

It was the first big surprise on the day the British Parliament reopened following last week's general election which resulted in a landslide majority for Johnson's Conservatives.

Earlier, Welsh MP Simon Hart was named as the new Welsh Secretary.

Political observers had been waiting all day for Johnson's mini-shuffle to find replacements for Morgan, who was culture secretary before she quit, and Alun Cairns, secretary of state for Wales who also left Johnson's front bench team of ministers.

It was also confirmed Monday night that Johnson plans to present his European Union Withdrawal Bill at a sitting this Friday of the House of Commons.

Johnson's official spokesperson at 10 Downing Street told a media briefing on Monday that the government plans to start the Brexit process before Parliament closes for the festive and New Year recess.

Political commentators said Johnson, now armed with his large majority, along with a promise by all Conservative MPs to back the withdrawal bill, expects it to pass its crucial first stages this week.

Johnson's government needs the permission of the House of Commons Speaker to table the bill this week.

That cannot happen until after MPs vote Tuesday afternoon to select a Speaker, expected to be Lindsay Hoyle, who succeeded retiring Speaker John Bercow just before parliament broke-up for the election.

Johnson wants the Brexit process to start its legislative process to enable Britain to leave the EU on his target date of Jan. 31.

Meanwhile earlier Monday, the 109 new Conservative MPs arrived at Westminster for training and familiarization sessions.

They will head to the famous paneled chamber Tuesday to start the process of being sworn-in as MPs.

Monday night the so-called "new-be" MPs were addressed by Johnson.

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