Britain’s new prime minister, who will also replace Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative Party, will be announced on July 23, AFP reported citing the ruling party. May had officially stepped down as the leader of her Conservative Party on June 7, but will remain the prime minister until the party chooses her successor.
Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Britain’s current top diplomat Jeremy Hunt are the ones left in the race. Johnson, 54, is a former mayor of London who has served as May’s foreign secretary until he resigned in 2018 over her Brexit strategy. Hunt has been in the Cabinet since 2010. Before he became foreign secretary, he was the UK’s longest-serving health secretary.
Johnson secured the backing of 160 MPs in the final ballot of the party’s MPs – more than half of the total. Hunt secured 77 votes – two more votes than the next candidate Michael Gove.
After the results, Johnson had tweeted that he was “deeply honoured” to have secured more than 50% of the vote in the final ballot. Hunt acknowledged Johnson as the front-runner to become the party leader and the prime minister, and said that he was the underdog but in politics “surprises happen”.
The two candidates were chosen from a field of 10 by the 313 lawmakers of the Conservative Party. A postal ballot of the 160,000 or so members to decide who will replace May as leader would close on July 22 with the winner being announced the following day, the party said.
The Conservatives do not have a majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons. They govern through an alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
May resigned after she failed to get the MPs’ approval for a Brexit deal last month. While announcing her decision on May 24, the prime minister had said that she had done her best to make a success of Brexit but had failed to convince members of Parliament to back her deal.
May’s successor will have until the end of October to decide the future of the United Kingdom in the European Union. The UK’s exit from the trade bloc was due on March 29, but has been delayed twice because May was unable to get the terms of the exit approved by the Parliament.
Brexit is now due on October 31 – and without a consensus, the country will have to choose to delay it again or leave the EU without an agreement at all.