Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is seen as the clear favourite to become the new Prime Minister when the result of the Conservative Party elections to succeed Theresa May will be announced on Tuesday (July 23), according to media reports.
Britain’s prime ministerial race concluded its final phase as voting closed on Monday (July 22) evening for counting to begin before May’s successor is unveiled. The frontrunner throughout the contest has been the 55-year-old ex-London mayor as the Conservative Party’s over 1,60,000 members across the UK filed in their postal votes to decide between him and the current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Johnson is seen as the clear favourite although a number of senior figures have said that they will not serve under him, the BBC reported. The outcome of the ballot of about 160,000 Tory members will be revealed at 11.45 am (1615 IST) in London, it said.
In terms of timeline, May will carry on as caretaker prime minister for a few days as she is set to address her final Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons on Wednesday (July 24) after which she will head to Buckingham Palace to formally offer her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.
The 93-year-old monarch will then meet the newly-elected Conservative Party leader and invite him to form a new government. The new prime minister then traditionally makes a statement on the steps of 10 Downing Street before taking official charge. This will happen before Parliament’s summer recess is set to kick off from Friday until early September.
In one of the final major prime ministerial acts, May is chairing the government’s emergency Cobra meeting on Monday after a British-flagged tanker was seized by Iran in the Gulf last week. She will receive updates from ministers and officials on the crisis since the vessel and its crew, including Indian nationals, were seized.
It will be one of the first big international issues to address for any new prime minister as well. With just hours to go before the vote closes, Johnson used his weekly newspaper column in the Daily Telegraph to compare the Brexit negotiations and meeting the October 31 deadline for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) with the same “can-do spirit” behind putting a man on the moon 50 years ago.
He called for optimism in the approach to resolve the controversial Irish backstop issue and the controversial insurance policy insisted upon by the EU but seen as a means of keeping the UK tied to European rules even after Brexit. The conundrum had resulted in May losing repeated parliamentary votes over her Brexit agreement, ultimately leading to her forced departure as British prime minister.
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“If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border,” writes Johnson. “It is time this country recovered some of its can-do spirit. We can come out of the EU on October 31, and yes, we certainly have the technology to do so. What we need now is the will and the drive,” he said.
He has come under severe criticism from leading politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair from the Opposition Labour Party, who warned against the prospect of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, something Johnson has refused to rule out on several occasions. Blair writes in The Times to warn that “crashing out without public endorsement would be a gargantuan risk” and “no one knows with certainty the impact of no-deal”.
“It could be merely very difficult or it could be catastrophic,” he said. Meanwhile, senior UK Cabinet members Chancellor Philip Hammond and justice secretary David Gauke have declared their intention to resign if Johnson is the one elected as party leader and Prime Minister, in line with their firm opposition to a no-deal Brexit.
A number of other Cabinet members are set to follow suit in the event that Johnson wins the race over similar Brexit-related concerns with Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan stepping down even before the new leader is even announced in opposition to the prospect of Johnson as the next Prime Minister.