Boris Johnson to put ‘maximum energy’ into role as new British PM

Senior MPs in open revolt over new leader’s plan to leave EU with or without a deal

Boris Johnson has been officially elected as leader of the UK Conservative Party. In his acceptance speech Johnson vowed to deliver Brexit as the new British prime minister.

 

Boris Johnson promised fellow Conservatives on Tuesday he would put his “maximum energy” into his new role as prime minister of the United Kingdom, calling on the governing party to pull together to leave the European Union by October 31st.

Mr Johnson, whose victory in a leadership race was announced earlier on Tuesday, was greeted by cheering Conservative MPs, one of whom described the incoming prime minister's speech as one that built “a very warm feeling,” in the room at a closed meeting of party members.

The lawmaker said Johnson answered questions on everything from the need for more naval vessels to rural affairs at the meeting, when he again said his first and foremost goal was to make sure Britain left the EU by the latest deadline

Mr Johnson will replace Theresa May as prime minister of the United Kingdom after winning the leadership of the Conservative party on Tuesday.

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt (left) congratulates Boris Johnson, the new leader of the Conservative party of the party leadership contest in London on Tuesday. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Bloomberg
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt (left) congratulates Boris Johnson, the new leader of the Conservative party of the party leadership contest in London on Tuesday. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Bloomberg

His convincing victory catapults the UK towards a showdown with the European Union and 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.

Mr Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit referendum, won the votes of 92,000 members of the Conservative party, almost twice as many as his rival, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. Ms May will leave office on Wednesday after going to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth, who will formally appoint Mr Johnson.

“We are going to get Brexit done on October 31st, and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of ‘can do’ ,” Mr Johnson (55) said after the result was announced. “Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Congratulations

Mr Johnson 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”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted his congratulations to Mr Johnson: “Look forward to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations.”

Tánaiste Simon Coveney offered his congratulations to Mr Johnson in a tweet, saying that the Government would “work constructively” with him and his government “to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader of the party Nigel Dodds have welcome Mr Johnson's win with Mr Dodds describing it as a “totally emphatic victory”. 

US president Donald Trump congratulated Johnson, saying he would be great.

“A really good man is going to be the prime minister of the UK now, Boris Johnson. A good man. He's tough and he's smart. They're saying ‘Britain Trump’. They're calling him ‘Britain Trump’ ,” Mr Trump said.

He added that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage would “work well with Boris”.

The men have recently been complimentary about each other - yet Trump is one of the many leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, about whom Mr Johnson has previously made derogatory remarks.

In 2015, he accused Mr Trump, then a candidate for office, of “stupefying ignorance” that made him unfit to be president. An avowed Brexit supporter will now lead the government for the first time since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU.

Elsewhere, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it is “more important than ever” to plan for a second vote on independence from the rest of the UK after Mr Johnson secured the keys to Number 10 Downing Street.

“Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers' friend, and pushing for a damaging no-deal Brexit,” Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said.

“But he hasn't won the support of our country.”

After his victory was announced, Johnson himself told party members: “I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision – and there may be some people here who still wonder what they have done.”

Resignations

Justice secretary David Gauke resigned while the leadership announcement was under way. Mr Gauke had said he believed there were “parliamentary mechanisms” that could prevent a no-deal Brexit which would “not necessarily” involve bringing down a Johnson administration.

Chancellor Philip Hammond had also given notice that he would resign rather than serve under Mr Johnson.

Skills minister Anne Milton resigned from the Tory front bench shortly before the result of the leadership contest was announced on Tuesday morning. She said she had “grave concerns” about leaving the EU without a deal. On Monday, Alan Duncan quit as Foreign Office minister at Mr Johnson’s expected victory, predicting a “crisis of government” under the new prime minister.

Mr Johnson has said he will ask all members of his cabinet to pledge support for his policy of leaving the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal. But former prime minister Tony Blair said he does not believe Mr Johnson will take the risk of pursuing a no-deal Brexit against the will of Parliament.

“My strong belief is that Boris Johnson will not dare try to take Britain out with no deal when Parliament will have voted against it and with no endorsement from the British people. I mean you’d be more than reckless to take that risk,” Mr Blair told The Irish Times.

Divided Kingdom

At one of the most tumultuous moments in Britain's modern history, it will be now led by a flamboyant figure known for his ambition, untidy blond hair, flowery oratory and cursory command of policy detail.

The 2016 referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the EU, and fuelled soul-searching about everything from regional secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire, and modern Britishness.

Mr Johnson has pledged to negotiate a new divorce deal with the EU to secure a smooth transition out of the EU. But if the bloc continues to refuse, he has promised to leave anyway – “do or die” – on the current agreed date of October 31st.

Many investors and economists say this would shake global markets and tip the world's fifth largest economy into recession or even chaos. The EU said a no-deal Brexit would be a tragedy for both parties but again said the withdrawal deal was not up for negotiation.

“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,” tweeted EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

A Brexit without a divorce deal would also weaken London’s position as the leading international financial centre while jolting the northern European economy.

Johnson's Conservatives need the support of 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland's Brexit-backing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for even a wafer-thin majority in parliament.

Some Conservative lawmakers have threatened to topple the government to avert a no-deal Brexit, a step that would probably deepen Britain's crisis and lead to an election. – Agencies

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