Boris Johnson tipped to become next UK prime minister

Opinion polls make former London mayor strong favourite to beat rival, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

    Boris Johnson tipped to become next UK prime minister
    Boris Johnson is expected to win Conservative Party vote, succeeding Theresa May as prime minister on Wednesday [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    Boris Johnson is expected to be elected leader of Britain's governing Conservative Party and the country's next prime minister on Tuesday, tasked with following through on his "do or die" pledge to deliver Brexit in just over three months.

    Johnson and his rival, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have spent the past month crisscrossing the country seeking to win over about 160,000 Conservative Party members who will choose Britain's new leader.

    Voting closed at 16:00 GMT on Monday and the result is due to be announced on Tuesday. The winner 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.

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

    He will inherit a political crisis over Britain's exit from the European Union, currently due to take place on October 31.

    Brexit negotiations

    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.

    Thousands of anti-Brexit demonstrators rally in London

    The only deal on the table has been rejected three times by the British parliament and many legislators - including pro-EU rebels in the Conservative Party - are also 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 31, come what may ... do or die, come what may," Johnson told Talkradio last month.

    Ministerial resignations

    Key ministerial appointments are not expected to be announced until Wednesday, but a Johnson victory in the leadership contest is expected to prompt several resignations in the deeply divided Conservative Party.

    Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan announced his resignation on Monday, as two junior ministers quit over Johnson's willingness to leave the EU without transition arrangements.

    In a resignation letter to Theresa May, the pro-EU Duncan said it was "tragic" that "the dark cloud of Brexit" was getting in the way of UK influence in the world.

    Chancellor Philip Hammond and the justice minister, David Gauke, have both said they plan to resign before they are sacked.


    Reporting from Westminster, Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull said that Johnson would face many challenges, particularly with regards to the ministerial resignations and Brexit.

    "He faces problems inheriting a situation left by Theresa May that is fundamentally unchanged and even more difficult in terms of getting through a Brexit which he has promised his party.

    "In the last couple of days, a stream of resignations by senior cabinet ministers have given him ... terribly bad optics on which to start.

    "They [ministers who resigned] will go on the backbenches and become extremely influential opponents, particularly of Johnson's no-deal Brexit in the weeks to come."

    Hull added that Johnson will also potentially be "dealing with the early stages of what could develop into a conflict in the Gulf with Iran".

    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.

    Tory leadership debate: Johnson edges closer to power

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies