How many British Prime Ministers were Scottish

How powerful is the UK Prime Minister?

In terms of foreign policy, in particular, Johnson is facing immense challenges with Brexit and the tensions in the Gulf region. No question about it: as the British head of government, he will soon be one of the most powerful people in the world. We take a closer look at the office.

The "top job" and its limits

Like the German Chancellor, the British Prime Minister determines the direction of government policy within the framework of his policy-making authority - or, as it says on the British government's website: he or she is "ultimately responsible for the policies and decisions of the government".

The man or woman at 10 Downing Street appoints cabinet ministers, appoints or approves the appointment of ambassadors and intelligence chiefs, and oversees the work of ministries and government agencies.

Until a few years ago, the prime minister also had the power to propose to the head of state - Queen Elizabeth II - the dissolution of parliament and new elections in the course of its election. This option was abolished by a law introduced in 2011.

She leaves, he comes: Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, her still-official apartment (archive image)

The chaos surrounding Britain's planned exit from the EU has recently shown that the British Prime Minister's political power is anything but unlimited. As a rule, the Prime Minister, as chairman of the leading party in the British House of Commons, can be sure of extensive decision-making power. The bitter dispute over the Brexit agreement negotiated by Theresa May with Brussels, with which she failed three times in a parliament unable to find a majority, has raised new questions about the political power of the head of government, especially in times of crisis. "She is still in office, but not really in power," wrote the BBC two days before May's resignation announcement in May.

The Queen appoints - and can dismiss (theoretically)

Fans of the Netflix series "The Crown" know it - and the feature film "The Queen" from 2006 also shows the tradition: Once a new Prime Minister has been appointed, an audience is due at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen officially takes the Order given to form a government. Since the appointment is made "at Her Majesty's pleasure" - at Her Majesty's discretion - the Queen can theoretically cancel it at any time. In practice, however, it only dismisses the head of government if it requests to resign.

With curtsey to the highest political office: Queen Elizabeth receives Theresa May in July 2016 at Buckingham Palace

Even after the appointment, the prime minister and monarch remain in close contact: once a week, the head of government and the head of state meet to discuss current political developments. If a face-to-face meeting is not possible, we will telephone Although the Queen is committed to political neutrality, she has "the right and duty to speak on government matters" during the highly confidential sessions, according to the royal family's website.

Secret Letters to the Royal Navy

Formally, the Queen heads the United Kingdom's armed forces, but the Prime Minister de facto assumes the role of Commander-in-Chief. As such, only he or she can authorize the use of nuclear weapons.

In the event that he is killed in an enemy nuclear attack, every Prime Minister writes top secret letters at the beginning of his term to the commanders of the four Royal Navy submarines that house the ballistic ICBMs of the British nuclear program Trident.

The nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance near the Scottish coast (archive image)

The number of possible instructions in the so-called "letters of last resort" is very limited, the marine historian Matthew Selig told the BBC in 2016. "Do nothing, retaliate, offer yourself to an ally like the US, or use your own judgment."

If there is a change at the top of the government, the letters of the former incumbent will be destroyed without being read.