Sajid Javid has said he quit rather than accept conditions that “no self-respecting minister could”, following his surprise resignation as chancellor today.
Simmering tensions between Downing Street and Treasury erupted into all-out warfare this morning, after he resigned in protest over plans to merge the two teams’ advisers.
Despite run-ins with Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, it was widely thought that Javid would be safe in what was seen as a largely run-of-the-mill reshuffle. But that was turned on its head after Javid refused to allow Number 10 to sack his advisers as part of moves to create a joint economic unit sitting between the two departments, which effectively hands oversight to the Prime Minister’s team.
The pound dropped sharply on news of Javid’s departure, although quickly recovered as he was replaced by his deputy Rishi Sunak, a Brexiter and long-time supporter of Boris Johnson, who had been tipped for promotion. Sunak was himself replaced by former Brexit secretary Steve Barclay.
However, a government spokesman was unable to confirm what this meant for the Budget, which is scheduled for 11 March, having already been cancelled at least once since last summer.
Asked if the fiscal event was going ahead as planned, and if the fiscal rules set out by Javid would still stand, the government’s spokesman said only: “Preparations have been carried out and will continue at pace”.
The move signals less independence for the Treasury during a critical time for the country’s finances, as Number 10 looks likely to embark on a series of expensive infrastructure projects while also dealing with the potential fallout of Brexit once transition ends in December.
But the landgrab was not totally unexpected. Javid has been at loggerheads with Johnson’s chief adviser Cummings for many months. The pair clashed over Cummings’ decision to sack former Treasury adviser Sonia Khan without her boss’ knowledge, while both teams descended into a briefing war with Number 10 dubbing Javid “Chino” – chancellor in name only.
This afternoon an emotional-looking Javid told reporters he “was left with no option other than to resign” because of the “conditions that [the Prime Minister] had attached” – although stressed Johnson had his “full support”.
“The conditions that were attached was a requirement that I replace all my political advisers – these are people that have worked incredibly hard, on behalf of not just the government but the whole country.
“I was unable to accept those conditions, I don’t believe any self-respecting minister would accept such conditions, therefore I thought the best thing to do was to go.”