(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has named Sajid Javid, a 48-year-old euroskeptic, as home secretary in an appointment that could tip the balance of power in the Cabinet toward a harder Brexit.
His predecessor Amber Rudd was a key pro-European Union voice who provided a counterpoint to pro-Brexit heavyweights, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Javid, a former banker, will attend a key meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Wednesday that will weigh up what kind of future relationship the U.K. will seek with the EU after the split.
Javid campaigned for Remain during the 2016 referendum but was never seen as very committed to that cause and has since come out as a firm Leaver. He has been clear that the U.K. should leave the customs union.
The fight over the customs union is one that’s dominating domestic politics as negotiations with Brussels make little progress. Businesses, the opposition Labour Party and some pro-EU Conservative rebels want the U.K. to remain inside it to ease cross-border trade.
While the appointment of Javid tips the balance of May’s war cabinet in favor of a harder Brexit, ultimately Parliament could end up deciding what kind of divorce Britain gets. There’s probably a majority in the House of Commons for staying in the customs union and a vote that could force May’s hand could come as soon as next month.
Son of a Bus Driver
Javid’s euroskepticism is not new. He was blooded in Conservative politics as a student campaigner against membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. His banking career gave him a global perspective -- he ran Deutsche Bank’s trading operations in Singapore before entering politics.
In the run-up to the referendum, Javid seriously considered joining the Leave campaign, according to people close to him, before being persuaded reluctantly to back Remain, partly because of his fears of the economic impact of Brexit and partly out of loyalty to then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
He is a former managing director at Deutsche Bank AG, who has also served as business secretary and culture secretary. A high-achiever, Javid became a vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank aged just 25. He now becomes the first ethnic minority holder of the Home Office in the post’s 236-year history.
He has been outspoken in his criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to crack down on anti-semitism in the party and also strongly condemned Donald Trump for his Twitter backing of a British neo-Nazi group.
Where Rudd worked as “aristocracy adviser” on the comedy “Four Weddings and A Funeral,” Javid is the son of immigrants. His father arrived in Britain from Pakistan in 1961, with a pound note in his pocket. He found work as a bus driver, before opening his own shop. Javid’s mother had no schooling at all, but took her children to the library every week.
That background gives Javid an insight many Conservative ministers lack. He is aware of the historic reasons immigrants treat his party with suspicion.
Javid was talking to reporters about becoming Britain’s first ethnic minority home secretary and had this to say: “My parents came to this great country from Pakistan in the sixties to help build this country. I think for them to see one of their sons to rise to this great office of state, I am sure they’ll be very proud.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.