Brexit hardliner Boris Johnson won the contest to lead Britain’s governing Conservative Party on Tuesday and will become the country’s next prime minister, tasked with fulfilling his promise to lead the UK out of the European Union “come what may.”
He replaces Prime Minister Theresa May, who announced her resignation last month, and he will officially become Britain’s leader on Wednesday.
The ballot, held among Conservative Party members, had a 87.4 percent turnout — Jeremy Hunt received 46,656 votes and Johnson got 92,153.
In his victory speech, Johnson said he planned to “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn.”
Johnson said that the mantra to deliver, unite, and defeat could spell “dud,” which he noted was “not the perfect acronym.”
“But they forgot the final ‘e,’ my friends, for ‘energize.’ And I say to all the doubters: Dude, we’re going to energize the country, we are going to get Brexit done.”
The victory is a triumph for 55-year-old Johnson, an ambitious but erratic politician whose political career has veered between periods in high office and spells on the sidelines.
He is a former London mayor who has wooed Conservatives by promising to succeed where May failed and lead the UK out of the European Union on the scheduled date of October 31 — with or without a divorce deal.
May immediately offered her congratulations, tweeting: “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.”
Several Conservative ministers have already announced they will resign to fight any push for a “no-deal” Brexit, an outcome economists warn would disrupt trade and plunge the UK into recession. Fears that Britain is inching closer to such a move weighed on the pound once again Tuesday. The currency was down another 0.3 percent at $1.2441 and near two-year lows.
May stepped down after Britain’s Parliament repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement she struck with the 28-nation bloc. Johnson insists he can get the EU to renegotiate — something the bloc insists it will not do.
If not, he says Britain must leave the EU on Halloween, “come what may.”
The new prime minister will preside over a House of Commons in which most members oppose leaving the EU without a deal, and where the Conservative Party lacks an overall majority.