July 24, 2019 / 9:19 AM / a month ago

Architect of Brexit campaign becomes adviser to new PM Johnson

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson will appoint Dominic Cummings, an architect of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union, as a senior adviser, a source said on Wednesday, confirming a move the new leader’s team hopes will help deliver Brexit by Oct. 31.

Johnson, who will formally become prime minister later on Wednesday, worked with Cummings on Vote Leave, a campaign which was lauded by Brexit campaigners for beating a much better financed campaign for Britain to stay in the EU with a simple message that the country should “take back control”.

But by bringing Cummings into such a high-profile role, Johnson’s team risks a backlash from some lawmakers, including some pro-Brexit lawmakers, who have fallen foul of the former Vote Leave campaign director’s sharp tongue.

Johnson has just 99 days to tackle the Brexit crisis, which has stalled economic growth, brought down Prime Minister Theresa May and deeply divided Britain, pitting the countryside against cities and challenging traditional political divides.

The source in Johnson’s team confirmed the appointment of Cummings, who was found to be in contempt of parliament earlier this year for failing to appear before lawmakers investigating “fake news” and the referendum.

Cummings, who masterminded the official Vote Leave campaign, has said he offered to give evidence.

The 47-year-old is lauded by some Brexit campaigners for his successful strategy to convince voters to back leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, but is hated by some lawmakers for his brusque manner and seeming disregard for parliament.

At the time of the referendum, a fellow campaigner said Cummings “uses Soviet propaganda techniques” and focussed on two messages - leaving the EU would hand 350 million pounds to the public health service and that Turkey could join the bloc.

Sarah Wollaston, a former Conservative lawmaker who left the party over Brexit, said before the appointment was confirmed: “If true, (it) would be an appalling error of judgment to appoint someone who has been in contempt of parliament.”

“Very rare for this to happen and would be shameful to be rewarded by PM with such a high profile role.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Kate Holton/Guy Faulconbridge

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