Julian Smith: PM read and signed off Stormont deal

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith has said the Prime Minister read and signed off the deal that restored the powersharing administration at Stormont.

Mr Smith was unceremoniously dumped from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet during last week’s reshuffle, after just over six months in the role and a matter of weeks after reaching the agreement.

Speculation about his position centred on the terms of the Stormont deal, amid Tory concerns it could pave the way for prosecutions of British soldiers.

But allies of the axed minister said it was “absolute crap” to suggest Mr Johnson and Number 10 had not been kept informed of the process and details of the deal.

Mr Smith told the Spectator that a Prime Minister “does not sign off a key government deal without reading it first”.

He wrote: “On Wednesday night the Times reported my expected fate, suggesting the reason for the chop was that Downing Street had been unaware of key details of the deal to restore Stormont.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to confirm to the journalist that a PM does not sign off a key government deal without reading it first, alongside a phalanx of talented PJ Masks aides.”

Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, told reporters ahead of the reshuffle that the animated superhero trio – PJ Masks – would “do a greater job than all of them (Cabinet ministers) put together”.

Mr Smith suggested there were signs from the Government ahead of the reshuffle that his time in the Cabinet may be coming to an end.

He said: “My suspicions were raised by Tuesday: my close protection apologised about the swap to a Skoda because the main car was in the garage; I received a fumbled brief about what would happen ‘should things go badly’ for me in the reshuffle; and finally, I could no longer reach the team on the normal phone due to ‘battery problems’.

“News from my private office confirmed that indeed miracles would be required to turn this patient’s prospects around. After a few side glances one private secretary told me that he had got wind via the civil service ‘net’ that I should be in for 8 a.m. on Thursday.”

Mr Smith was replaced by former Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis.