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Brexit, personnel change, coronavirus: The first 100 days of Boris Johnson's Government

Brexit, personnel change, coronavirus: The first 100 days of Boris Johnson's Government
9 min read

After Boris Johnson secured a hefty majority in December, it was assumed that his second attempt at a first 100 days might be relatively drama-free. We look back on what has turned out to be an extraordinary period in British history

13 December 2019:

The final results of the 2019 General Election arrive just before 3pm. The Conservatives have 365 seats (+48), Labour on 202 (-60), the SNP on 48 (+13), and the Lib Dems on 11 (-1). In Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party (+1) and SDLP (+2) rejoin Parliament, with Sinn Fein and the DUP both losing seats. Boris Johnson tells voters his government will work “round the clock” to “repay your trust”.

 

14 December 2019:

Jeremy Corbyn announces that he will stand down as Labour leader when a successor is found. Lisa Nandy becomes the first MP to declare their candidacy. She is joined by Jess Phillips, Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Clive Lewis. Ian Lavery and Barry Gardiner decide against running, while Angela Rayner stands for the deputy leadership. The Labour’s ruling NEC later decides that the contest will run until the beginning of April. Starmer, Nandy and Long-Bailey make the final three, after Thornberry, Lewis and Phillips pull out.

19 December 2019:

The Queen’s Speech is delivered in Parliament, with bills ranging from Brexit legislation, ramped up police powers, and more spending on R&D and the NHS. The Scottish parliament passes the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2019, and first minister Nicola Sturgeon writes to the prime minister requesting the transfer of legal authority to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence, planned for 2020. The UK government refuses this request.

20 December 2019:

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 passes its second reading 358–234. All House of Lords amendments are overturned at ping-pong, and the bill receives royal assent on 23 January. 

11 January 2020:

The Northern Ireland Assembly meets for the first time in three years. Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith is widely praised for his role in the successful restoration of talks. 

28 January 2020:

Despite protests from the US and its own backbenches, the Government announces that controversial Chinese firm Huawei will play a role in the development of the UK’s 5G and gigabit-capable networks, albeit with restrictions on access. 

29 January 2020:

House of Commons Select Committee chairs are elected, with only one incumbent losing their seat. The European Parliament ratifies the withdrawal agreement 621–49. The Council of Europe concludes EU ratification the next day. 

31 January 2020:

At 11pm GMT, the UK leaves the European Union, ending 47 years of membership. The first two coronavirus cases are confirmed in the UK, in a family of Chinese nationals staying in York.  

2 February 2020:

Two people are stabbed during a terror attack in Streatham. Sudesh Amman, who carried out the atrocities, was shot dead by police. There is uproar after it emerges that Amman has previously been convicted of terror offences.

11 February 2020:

Boris Johnson announces that despite spiralling costs and delays – and protests from his own party – the whole HS2 line will go ahead.

13 February 2020:

Boris Johnson carries out his first major reshuffle. Five cabinet ministers are sacked, including Julian Smith. Sajid Javid resigns over plans to merge the Treasury SpAd team with No 10’s. Rishi Sunak becomes the new chancellor just a month ahead of the Budget. The reshuffle also brings the percentage of women ministers in junior roles to nearly 50%, although at Cabinet level it drops to six women out of 22.

19 February 2020:

Home secretary Priti Patel unveils a new points-based immigration system. Points will be allocated for specific skills, qualifications, professions, and salary thresholds. Job offers from an approved sponsor at the appropriate level, and an ability to speak English to a good level will be required, with more points available to those with specialist skills or jobs in shortage occupations.

24 February 2020:

The House of Lords passes the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill to prevent automatic early release of those convicted of terror offences. 

25 February 2020:

The EU publishes its negotiating mandate for the future relationship with the UK. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier says the EU will not agree to a deal “at any price”.

27 February 2020:

The Government publishes its negotiating mandate for its future relationship with the EU, aiming to secure an EU/Canada style trade deal, and implying that the Government will not agree to any binding obligations on future regulatory alignment.

28 February 2020:

The first documented coronavirus transmission within the UK is confirmed. The number of confirmed cases in the UK is now at 20. 

29 February 2020:

Following a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him, Sir Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary to the Home Office, announces that he is quitting and suing the Government for constructive and unfair dismissal. Rutnam says he had heard stories about Priti Patel’s conduct towards employees including “swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands”, accusations she denies. The prime minister and Carrie Symonds announce they are engaged and expecting a baby in the summer.

2 March 2020:

The Cabinet Office launches an inquiry after multiple bullying allegations are made against Priti Patel during her time in government – all of which she denies. Boris Johnson says he is “sticking by” the Home Secretary. House of Commons select committee memberships are officially confirmed, nearly three months after the general election. 

 

3 March 2020:

The Government unveils its coronavirus action plan, with four phases – contain, delay, research, mitigate. Advice to the public centres around handwashing, and self-isolation if returning from more heavily affected regions, such as northern Italy. 

5 March 2020:

The first death from coronavirus is confirmed in the UK. The prime minister’s spokesman says: “It is now likely that the virus is going to spread in a significant way.” 

8 March 2020:

The Parliamentary commissioner for standards launches an official inquiry into the prime minister’s Christmas break on the island of Mustique.

9 March 2020:

Following a COBRA meeting on the coronavirus spread, the prime minister confirms the UK remains in the ‘contain’ phase but is making “extensive preparations for a move to the delay phase”, confirming that the best thing for the public to do at that time “is wash our hands for 20 seconds with soap and water” while the Government prepares various actions to slow the spread.

10 March 2020:

Health minister Nadine Dorries is the first MP to test positive for coronavirus. Thirty-eight Tory rebels vote to try and time-limit Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure – another 22 abstain, cutting Johnson’s majority to just 24. 

 

11 March 2020:

Rishi Sunak delivers the Government’s first Budget, announcing an initial £30bn package to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. Sunak also announces measures to help small businesses and extend welfare provision for those who would lose money due to self-isolation – although the Opposition raise concerns about the levels of statutory sick pay and wait time for Universal Credit. Sunak also announces £600bn public net investment over the next five years – the highest since 1955 – including £1bn of additional funding for social care every year of this Parliament, an increase in funding for R&D to £22bn per year, £2.5bn to repair potholes, and £5.2bn for flood defences. The WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. 

12 March 2020:

The prime minister confirms the UK is moving to the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus action plan, calling it the “worst health crisis for a generation”. Government advice is updated to recommend seven days of self-isolation for any symptoms of coronavirus, with estimates that 5,000-10,000 people in the UK are probably infected. Boris Johnson states: “I must level with you, the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” Introducing harsher social distancing measures such as shutting down schools and stopping large gatherings are judged to do more harm than good.

13 March 2020:

After initially pushing back at the suggestion, the Government announces local and mayoral elections scheduled for May 2020 are postponed for a year due to coronavirus concerns. The Houses of Parliament begins to restrict visitor access as the number of MPs self-isolating grows to 11. Organisers postpone sports fixtures and large gatherings across the country.

15 March 2020:

Health secretary Matt Hancock confirms an overnight blog post by journalist Robert Peston that the elderly and most vulnerable will be told to stay home “in the coming weeks”. Hancock also confirms that an emergency package of powers would be coming to Parliament, and that the prime minister would be urging manufacturers to produce ventilators.

16 March 2020:

In the first of his daily press conferences with senior medical and scientific advisors, the prime minister calls on the public to end all “non-essential contact” with others, to avoid unnecessary travel, and work from home where possible. Official advice is updated so households should now self-isolate for 14-days if any member shows symptoms. There is confusion about what advice applies to what vulnerable group – particularly over-70s without underlying health conditions and pregnant women – and concern about the availability of PPE for health care workers. 

17 March 2020:

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab bans all-but-essential travel outside the UK for an initial period of 30 days. The Parliamentary estate bans all non-essential visitors.  Rishi Sunak makes £330bn available in guarantees to business, 15% of the UK’s GDP, and £20bn in other aid, adding that he “will go further and provide as much capacity as required” if needed. He also announced mortgage “holidays” for those unable to pay. The Government states that despite the postponement of Brexit trade talks, the transition period will not be extended.

18 March 2020:

The Government announces that all schools will close from 5pm 20 March, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. The prime minister announces that the Government will bring forward emergency powers to stop renters from being evicted. The Scottish government announces that it will no longer pursue a second independence referendum in 2020, and urges the Government to extend the Brexit transition period. The coronavirus death toll in the UK reaches 104.

19 March 2020:

The Government publishes its extensive emergency powers bill, due to be passed on 24 March

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