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British PM to present Brexit plan on Friday

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British PM is also expected to carry out a limited Cabinet reshuffle

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson got down to work yesterday following his sweeping election victory, appointing ministers and announcing plans to publish legislation this week to get Britain out of the European Union.

The Conservative leader was expected to carry out a limited Cabinet reshuffle before welcoming new MPs to Parliament following his landslide win in last week's general election.

But his main focus is on fulfilling his promise to get Britain out of the European Union by the end of next month after years of acrimonious debate in Parliament and across the nation.

Mr Johnson will present legislation on Friday that begins the process of ratifying the divorce terms he struck with Brussels in October, his spokesman said.

"The government has just been elected with a clear majority to deliver Brexit, and we're focused on passing the legislation to ensure that happens by Jan 31," he said.

Mr Johnson's simple promise to "get Brexit done" resonated in a snap election last Thursday that for many became a re-run of Britain's 2016 EU membership referendum.

A narrow majority had opted to leave the EU back then but years of debate in Parliament over how - or even when - Britain should end almost five decades of integration with its closest neighbours followed.

Mr Johnson declared the argument settled when his Conservatives won 44 per cent of the vote, giving it a majority of 80 in the 650-seat Commons - its biggest since the heyday of Mrs Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Mr Johnson is expected to tinker around the edges of his current government and conduct a real overhaul once the first stage of Brexit is out of the way.

London and Brussels will have to embark on yet more negotiations aimed at striking new trade and security partnership.

The withdrawal deal sets out a post-Brexit transition period until the end of 2020 to hold these talks, during which time British-EU ties will remain broadly the same.

London has the option to extend the transition but Mr Johnson has insisted this will not happen, saying it is time to break free of EU rules.

His spokesman repeated yesterday he would be seeking a "Canada-style free trade agreement", similar to the deal signed between the EU and Canada.

But EU officials cautioned that trade deals can take years, and experts warned that failure to reach agreement before the transition ends could lead to a severe economic shock.

On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II will read out Mr Johnson's legislative programme in a ceremony in Parliament, setting out his government's priorities.

Besides Brexit, it is expected to focus on social spending aimed at locking in the future votes of traditional Labour supporters who switched sides.

After nine years of Conservative governments focused on cutting public spending, Mr Johnson has promised more money for schools, hospitals, police and infrastructure.

This blunted the impact of Labour's own warnings about further Tory cuts to services, particularly the much-loved state-run National Health Service. - AFP