LONDON – Sajid Javid, British Foreign Minister of Finance and the country’s chief finance officer, resigned on Thursday, the biggest surprise of the reorganization of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
Johnson and his Conservative Party are trying to define the political direction of a government that faces few limitations after an overwhelming electoral victory in December. Although his party has been in power for a decade, the reorganization was an opportunity to refresh his profile and give the impression that a government is moving forward after three years of Brexit paralysis.
The first changes arrived on Thursday morning, with Julian Smith, the secretary of state of Northern Ireland, saying he would leave the government. His departure was also somewhat surprising, given that he had received high praise for helping to end the political stalemate that had left Northern Ireland without a regional government for three years.
Over the course of several hours, senior officials from a series of government ministries turned to Twitter to announce that they would leave, including Geoffrey Cox, who as attorney general provided legal advice that complicated the efforts of Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor , to leave the European Union.
Esther McVey, the housing minister made it clear that he would have liked to remain in his post, but said Mr. Johnson would continue to have his “bank support”; Andrea Leadsom confirmed on Twitter that he would leave as business secretary; and Theresa Villiers said she had been fired as secretary of the environment and wrote on Facebook that “what the prime minister gives, the prime minister removes.”
Chris Skidmore, the minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, wrote that he had “obtained a promotion” in the reorganization to spend more time with his new baby.
Mr. Javid was expected to remain in his position, but his departure was announced after a meeting with Mr. Johnson. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Interior Secretary Priti Patel were expected to maintain their positions.
With several ministers losing their jobs, the gender balance of the new leadership team will be closely watched.
There will also be considerable interest in Mr. Johnson’s decision on the fate of Michael Gove, currently Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Gove, one of Brexit’s highest profile supporters, campaigned for a British exit from the European Union along with Mr. Johnson in the 2016 referendum campaign, but their friendship collapsed dramatically.
In the days after the 2016 vote, Gove sabotaged Johnson’s first failed attempt to become prime minister, paving the way for Ms. May to take office.
Johnson finally succeeded her last year and promised to address the discontent of many who feel economically abandoned, particularly in central and northern England.
A significant number of voters in these areas changed from the Labor Party to support conservatives in December, ensuring Mr. Johnson’s victory in the general election.
Earlier this week, the prime minister gave The approval of a high-speed rail link that connects London with cities in central and northern England and costs more than $ 130 billion.
That project had been criticized by Mr. Johnson’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, who is reputed to have a pugilist approach and advocated major changes in government structure and a reduction in the number of cabinet ministers.
Such drastic surgery now seems unlikely, a fact that seems to underline the limits of the influence of Mr. Cummings, who recently lost several internal battles.
Some more modest changes in the structure of the ministries are expected, in particular the departure of Nicky Morgan, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sports. Ms. Morgan, who is a member of the House of Lords not elected, remained at work as an intermediate step after last year’s general election.
Stephen Barclay was expected to return to the cabinet after leaving at the end of January due to the closure of his department, which was responsible for leaving the European Union.
Ministers expected to be promoted include Oliver Dowden, minister of the Cabinet Office, and Rishi Sunak, chief secretary of the Treasury.
The new cabinet is expected to meet for the first time on Friday, and observers will be alert to see if the political balance of the cabinet changes and if there is a clearer sense of Mr. Johnson’s priorities.
However, the talent group is limited because the Brexit process had a huge cost in the Conservative Party. Several prominent members were left out of the party after opposing Mr. Johnson’s hard line approach to Brexit, and other experienced ministers decided not to run for re-election in December.