UK faces further Brexit turmoil with Boris Johnson tipped to win PM race

Henry Nicholls, REUTERS | Boris Johnson, the favourite to become Britain's next prime minister, leaves his office in London on July 22, 2019.

Boris Johnson was elected leader of Britain's governing Conservative Party and the country's prime minister-in-waiting on Tuesday, tasked with following through on his "do or die" pledge to deliver Brexit in just over three months time.


Johnson and his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

over the less than 200,000 Conservative Party members who will choose Britain's new leader.

He will formally take over as prime minister on Wednesday afternoon, succeeding Theresa May, who stepped down over her failure to get parliament to ratify her Brexit deal.

The former London mayor, who resigned as foreign minister a year ago over May's Brexit plans, was the clear favourite to replace her, with several polls putting him on around 70 percent.

He inherits a political crisis over Britain's exit from the European Union, currently due to take place on October 31.

Johnson must persuade the EU to revive talks on a withdrawal deal that it has been adamant cannot be reopened, or else lead Britain into the economic uncertainty of an unmanaged departure.

The only deal on the table has been rejected three times by parliament and many lawmakers including pro-EU rebels in the Conservative Party are also vowing to block Johnson trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

Out by October 31, 'come what may'

Johnson has said he would ramp up preparations for a no-deal to try to force the EU's negotiators to make changes to the accord.

"We will of course be pushing our plan into action, and getting ready to come out on October 31st, come what may... do or die, come what may," Johnson told TalkRADIO last month.

Johnson is not likely to start announcing key ministerial appointments until Wednesday, but his victory in the leadership contest is expected to prompt several resignations in the deeply divided Conservative Party.

Two junior ministers have already quit over Johnson's willingness to leave the EU without transition arrangements and finance minister Philip Hammond and justice minister David Gauke have both said they plan to resign before they are sacked.

'Boris Johnson is on a very, very tight lead,' says FRANCE 24's international affairs editor, Douglas Herbert

Brexit without a divorce deal as anti-EU hardliners would like would abruptly wrench the world's fifth largest economy away from the bloc. Critics say this would undermine global growth, buffet financial markets and weaken London's position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.

Iran stand-off

Besides his domestic battles, Johnson will have to try to secure a resolution to the stand-off with Iran.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, Tehran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero on Friday in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, against a backdrop of brinkmanship between the United States and Iran.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Hunt branded Tehran's actions as "state piracy". He announced that Britain was planning a European-led protection force for shipping in the Gulf.

May will answer questions in parliament as prime minister for the final time at midday on Wednesday. She will then make one last speech outside the premier's Downing Street office before heading to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

The 93-year-old head of state will then invite the new Conservative leader to form an administration.


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