Monday 19 August 2019

It's Boris: Johnson confirmed as new Conservative leader... and next UK Prime Minister

  • Boris Johnson got 92,153 votes while Jeremy Hunt polled 46,656
  • Mr Johnson will formally take over as PM on Wednesday afternoon
Boris Johnson seems utterly determined to leave by October 31, with or without a deal. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Boris Johnson seems utterly determined to leave by October 31, with or without a deal. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Piper

BORIS JOHNSON has been elected leader of Britain's governing Conservative Party and is set to be the UK's next prime minister, tasked with following through on his "do or die" pledge to deliver Brexit in just over three months time.

Mr Johnson and his rival, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have spent the last month crossing the country seeking to win over the fewer than 200,000 Conservative Party members who choose Britain's new leader.

Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The winner was announced shortly before noon at an event near parliament in London.

Boris Johnson got 92,153 votes while Jeremy Hunt polled 46,656 - winning by almost two to one.

Mr Johnson said it was an “extraordinary honour and privilege” to be elected Conservative leader.

The 55-year-old said the mantra of his leadership campaign had been to "deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat (opposition Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn - and that is what we are going to do".

"Do you look daunted? Do you feel daunted? I don't think you look remotely daunted to me," he told party members at the Queen Elizabeth conference centre opposite the British parliament. "We are going to get Brexit done."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney was the first Irish politician to publicly congratulate Mr Johnson. The Fine Gael TD said on twitter that he will work to strengthen Anglo-Irish relations as Brexit approaches.

Mr Johnson 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.

Mr Hunt was among the first to congratulate Mr Johnson on winning the campaign.

'His famously ambiguous relationship with facts will be scrutinised like never before.' Photo: Reuters/Simon Dawson
'His famously ambiguous relationship with facts will be scrutinised like never before.' Photo: Reuters/Simon Dawson

He Tweeted: "Congratulations Boris Johnson 4 a campaign well fought. You'll be a great PM for our country at this critical moment!Throughout campaign you showed optimism, energy & unbounded confidence in our wonderful country & we need that. All best wishes from the entrepreneur."

Mrs May also took to social media to wish her successor well.

"Many congratulations to @BorisJohnson on being elected leader of @Conservatives - we now need to work together to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK and to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of government. You will have my full support from the back benches," she said.

US President Donald Trump also is also backing Mr Johnson.

He wrote: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!"

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said: "We look forward to working constructively with PM Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit.

"We are ready also to rework the agreed declaration on a new partnership."

 Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated the incoming British Prime Minister, saying in a tweet that Tehran does not seek confrontation with London.

"I congratulate my former counterpart, @BorisJohnson on becoming UK PM," Zarif said on Twitter. "Iran does not seek confrontation. But we have 1500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters & we will protect them."

"The May govt's seizure of Iranian oil (tanker) at behest of US is piracy, pure & simple," Zarif added.

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

He will inherit a political crisis over Britain's exit from the European Union, due to take place on October 31. Mr 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 divorce deal on the table has been rejected three times by parliament and many lawmakers - including pro-EU rebels in the Conservative Party - are vowing to block Johnson from trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

He 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," Johnson told TalkRadio last month.

Sterling fell for the third straight day, partly due to concern that the new prime minister will back a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson faces the same parliamentary problems that brought down May.

The Conservatives only govern with the support of 10 lawmakers from the Brexit-backing DUP in Northern Ireland. Even with their backing, the working majority can be counted on one hand.

While some Conservative MPs will demand the new leader ensures an EU exit by Oct. 31, a group Mr Johnson has wooed to enhance his leadership prospects, others have hinted that they would be prepared to bring down the government to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The new prime minister will also be acutely aware of the electoral threat posed by Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, which won the most votes and seats in May's European Parliament elections, while there has been a surge in support for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

Mr Johnson is not likely to start announcing key ministerial appointments until Wednesday, but his expected victory in the leadership contest is likely to prompt several resignations in his bitterly-divided party.

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.

More to follow

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