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Boris Johnson Wins Race to Be Next British Prime Minister

By Bloomberg 23 July 2019
Caption
Boris Johnson holds his acceptance speech after he is announced as the new Conservative party leader at an event in London, Britain, 23 July 2019. Former London mayor and foreign secretary Boris Johnson on 23 July 2019 was announced the winner in the party contest to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. As the winner, Johnson will also take up the post of Britain's prime minister on 24 July 2019. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

Boris Johnson, the public face of the Brexit campaign, won the contest to succeed Theresa May as British prime minister, taking over a country in crisis and a government on the brink of breaking apart.

After a six-week leadership race, which he led from the start, Johnson defeated his rival Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt by a landslide in a ballot of the Conservative Party’s roughly 160,000 members.

A New Prime Minister’s First Day in No. 10: A Step-By-Step Guide

“I say to all the doubters … we are going to energize the country, we are going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31, we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can do,” Johnson said in acceptance speech. “Like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

The pound erased the day’s losses against the dollar, and was up against all major peers after the announcement.

Sterling pares day’s losses
The result marks the end of a bruising battle for the biggest job in British politics and the start of what threatens to be a brutal new phase in the civil war inside the government over Brexit.

The incoming prime minister has just 100 days to negotiate a new divorce deal with the European Union before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc at the end of October.

How Boris Johnson Plans to Deliver Brexit in 100 Days

He must do so despite opposition from the EU and a growing rebellion from his own colleagues, including a group of ministers quitting the government because they can’t work for him.

The rebels inside the party Johnson now leads are vowing to fight his policy of exiting the EU with or without a deal — “do or die” — by the hard deadline of Oct. 31. Adding to his problems is the Tories’ lack of an automatic majority in Parliament — and Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish grouping that props up the Conservatives, wants to renegotiate the terms of its continuing support.

Boris Johnson Wins Race to be Next U.K. Prime Minister
Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative Party, reacts as he announced winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London, U.K., on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Johnson, the public face of the Brexit campaign, won the contest to succeed Theresa May as British prime minister, taking over a country in crisis and a government on the brink of breaking apart. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Even with the DUP on board, Johnson’s majority is perilously small, after a number of defections and defeats. Some Conservative believe a general election is inevitable and Johnson’s team have been war-gaming their options for a snap poll in the fall.

Second Time Lucky
The victory is a personal triumph for Johnson, who quit the prestigious role of foreign secretary a year ago and was dismissed by many colleagues, including some of his own supporters, as a failure whose time had been and gone.

Johnson tried to run for the premiership in 2016, when David Cameron resigned after losing the EU referendum to his pro-Leave campaign. But his fledgling leadership bid was killed off before it launched when his friend Michael Gove quit as his campaign chief and decided to run as a rival because he did not believe Johnson was up to the job.

The former foreign secretary got a second chance when May finally conceded defeat in her attempt to honor that referendum and resigned. The Brexit deal she spent two years negotiating with the EU was rejected three times in Parliament and Johnson must now find a way through where she failed.

He has declared May’s Brexit agreement to be “dead” and has vowed to secure better divorce terms by the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain to leave the bloc.

What ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Means and Why It’s a Big Risk: QuickTake

Johnson’s main aim is to strip out the so-called backstop guarantee plan for the Irish border, a protocol designed to ensure there’s never a hard frontier with checkpoints and security guards at the land border between Ireland and the U.K. This is what the die-hard Brexiteers want of him.

Steve Baker, a leading Tory euroskeptic, said in an interview that he was “absolutely confident” Johnson will deliver on his promises. “I am very happy for him,” Baker said. “We have at last got our man where we want him.”

Problem is that the EU has flatly rejected those pledges, saying any exit deal must include the backstop. If nothing changes, that puts Johnson on course to crash the U.K. out of the bloc at the end of October without any deal at all.

He has promised to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, to ensure the inevitable economic damage and disruption to trade are minimized, as far as possible. That rising prospect of a messy split from the EU has weighed on the pound in recent weeks.

Johnson is due to take over from May as prime minister on Wednesday, when he visits Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed to the role. In the hours that follow, he’s expected to name a new Cabinet before making a speech to Parliament on his Brexit plans on Thursday. He will have to decide whether to give top jobs to his two biggest rivals: Gove and Hunt.

Johnson as U.K.’s Premier May Blow a $60 Billion Hole: Economics

While the U.K.’s divorce from the EU is the most daunting policy priority for Johnson, he has other demands competing for his attention, including the escalating tensions with Iran over the break down of the nuclear deal and the seizure of a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

He inherits an economy weakened by Brexit uncertainty and slowing demand internationally. His government must also appoint a successor to Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who is scheduled to step down at the end of January.

In the meantime, U.S. President Donald Trump was quick to congratulate Johnson, whom he considers a like-minded friend.

Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019

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On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

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However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

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