Dominic Cummings quit as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most powerful aide and will leave by the end of the year. The news will plunge the Prime Minister’s leadership into a rough situation at a critical time for the UK as it navigates the closing stages of Brexit.
Cummings earlier told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that his position “hasn’t changed” since he wrote in January that he wanted to be “largely redundant” within a year.
He is the second key adviser to Johnson to go in the space of a day, after tensions blew up over the way the Prime Minister’s inner circle operates. Late on Wednesday, Communications Director Lee Cain announced he was standing down.
Cummings has been at the Premier’s side since he took power in July 2019, and was the mastermind of the successful Brexit referendum campaign that catapulted Johnson into the front rank of British politics three years earlier.
His departure will deprive the premier of his most important adviser and strategist, who has wielded huge influence over all aspects of government policy, from its pandemic response to Brexit and economic reform.
Cain and Cummings were the two closest aides to Johnson in his political team and he will feel their absence.
It’s a critical time for the UK: with the country in a second national lockdown and the pandemic death rate rising again, Johnson has just a few days left to finalize a Brexit trade deal with the European Union before it’s too late.
With Cain already gone, Cummings’s departure at year end will dovetail with the UK’s departure from its post-Brexit transition arrangements.
His presence alongside Johnson at the top of government has always been controversial. In the first turbulent months of Johnson’s premiership in 2019, Cummings waged a campaign against anti-Brexit sympathizers inside the governing Conservative Party, forcing some rebels out for good and ripping up political conventions.
Then Cummings helped steer the prime minister toward a historic election victory last December, winning the biggest Tory majority in more than 30 years on his platform to “level up” economically neglected regions of the UK.
But when the pandemic hit at the start of the year, the Cummings project ran into a wall. All government focus was turned to combating coronavirus and Cummings himself inevitably became part of the story.
In May Johnson put his own authority on the line to defend Cummings, who was accused of breaking lockdown rules by driving more than 400km to seek childcare help when the public were being ordered to stay at home.