Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been elected leader of the Conservative Party and will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Johnson defeated his rival Jeremy Hunt by a significant margin after a race spanning seven weeks, during the course of which 1,60,000 members of the British Conservative Party picked the next PM.
How did Britain get here?
On May 24, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would resign from her post after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal for the third time.
May struggled to gain support from MPs to back her 10-point EU Withdrawal Bill, which offered to hold a vote for a second referendum if the Bill were to be passed. This was an attempt to garner support from the opposing Labour Party — however, the offer only enraged her party MPs, and provoked a senior Cabinet Minister to resign.
May, only the second woman Prime Minister of Britain, told reporters: “It will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”
How did the race for the next PM proceed?
May’s resignation triggered a leadership contest within the ruling Tories. The New Conservative Party Leader would also become the new Prime Minister. Over five voting rounds, ministers of the Conservative Party voted for their preferred candidate. In the final round, Boris Johnson received the most votes, 160 out of 313, while Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, came second with 77 votes.
In the final results announced Tuesday, Johnson won 66% of the vote — 92,153 against Hunt’s 46,656. A total 159,320 people were eligible to vote, and the turnout was 87.4%.
What happens next?
May will officially be relieved of her duty as Prime Minister on Wednesday by the Queen after she has participated in her last Prime Minister’s Questions interview. Johnson will be appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Queen after.
Members of Parliament are to go on their summer recess on July 25, with the House returning on September 3. This would give Johnson less than two months to renegotiate another Brexit deal, which Parliament approves. If a withdrawal agreement is not agreed upon, it seems likely that he would leave the EU with no deal on October 31.
How is the transition likely to impact the Conservative Party?
Johnson is an eccentric and often divisive figure. With him at the helm as Prime Minister, it seems likely that many senior Ministers would refuse to work in the government. Johnson, a prominent Brexiteer, wants to leave the EU by October 31, “do or die, come what may”.
Chancellor Philip Hammond had already told the BBC late last week that he would resign if Johnson were to become Prime Minister. Hammond said that a no-deal Brexit was “not something I could ever sign up to”. Justice Secretary Justin Gauke followed, telling The Sunday Times that a no-deal Brexit was “not something I am prepared to sign up to”.
What does a no-deal Brexit mean?
A no-deal Brexit would mean that the United Kingdom would leave the EU immediately. This would be a direct exit from all EU governing bodies, such as the single market which ensures that tariffs are not placed on trade between EU members, as well as medical bodies that regulate pharmaceutical laws.
Many Ministers are opposed to a no-deal Brexit as they fear shortages of food and pharmaceutical supplies which are imported from Europe. Additionally, UK nationals living abroad in Europe would have no guarantee of right of residency in Europe anymore, and thus may be forced to return to the UK.
However, some politicians argue that a no-deal Brexit would be beneficial to the UK. They argue that the UK would not have to help fund the EU budget (approximately around £9 bn per annum) nor have to pay the £39 bn divorce bill. They say the British economy will not go into recession or face shortages as many fear, because the UK will be able to make its own unrestricted trade deals under the World Trade Organisation regulations.
Johnson has proposed to ensure a “standstill period” if no deal is agreed upon, in order to settle trade agreements. He seeks to remove tariffs from trade with the EU for the next 10 years through GATT 24, a provision of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
(The writer is an intern at The Indian Express)