Boris Johnson Tuesday will be Britain’s next Prime Minister, succeeding Theresa May. He defeated his rival Jeremy Hunt overwhelmingly in a vote of Conservative Party members. Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit referendum, won the votes of 92,153 members of the Conservative party, to 46,656 for his rival. Boris Johnson is tasked with following through on his “do or die” pledge to deliver Brexit in just over three months time.
In his first statement, after the results were announced, Johnson said that as prime minister he will “deliver Brexit, unite the country” and defeat Labour opposition.
The formal swearing-in ceremony will take place on Wednesday afternoon. The victory is a triumph for the 55-year-old Johnson, an ambitious but erratic politician whose political career has veered between periods in high office and spells on the sidelines.
Johnson’s victory has two implications: it pushes the United Kingdom towards a Brexit showdown with the European Union (EU) and also towards a constitutional crisis at home, as British lawmakers have vowed to bring down any government that tries to leave the bloc without a divorce deal.
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Johnson’s victory places a hardcore Brexit supporter in charge of the government for the first time since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in the shock 2016 referendum. The timing of Johnson’s victory is also significant as it comes during one of the most complex and tumultuous junctures in post-World War Two British history.
The new Prime Minister is expected to spend some time finalising his key Cabinet and ministerial posts soon after the results. A number of Brexiteers, including Indian-origin MPs Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak – both supporters of Johnson, are expected to be part of his new team.
Addressing the Tory party members at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, near the Houses of Parliament, soon after the results were declared, Johnson said: “No one person or party has the monopoly of wisdom. Time and again it is to us [Conservative Party] that people have turned.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron and future head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen both congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming Britain’s next prime minister, although a key Macron ally warned Johnson that the EU would not budge on Brexit.
“First of all, congratulations to Boris Johnson for being nominated as Prime Minister. I’m looking forward to having a good working relationship with him,” von der Leyen told a joint news conference with Macron in Paris on Tuesday.