Just a few years ago, Boris Johnson was described as Britain’s version of Donald Trump. The outspoken and often brusk British politician seemed constantly at odds with the established British political class but who captured the imagination of the public. Now, he’ll be the next Prime Minister.
Johnson—known for his ambition, Trump-like swirl of blonde hair, flowery oratory and cursory command of policy detail—takes office at one of the most tumultuous junctures in post-World War II British history.
After promising to lead Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by October 31, he will replace Theresa May as prime minister after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party on Tuesday, July 23.
His victory catapults the United Kingdom towards a Brexit showdown with the EU and towards a continued political fight at home, as British lawmakers try to finagle a way to stay in the EU against the will of the majority of British voters. The establishment is vowing to bring down any government that tries to leave the bloc without a divorce deal – considered a stall tactic to those want the results of the Brexit vote respected and who want out now.
Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit referendum, won the votes of 92,153 members of the Conservative party, to 46,656 for his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
May will leave office on Wednesday after going to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth, who will formally appoint Johnson before he enters Downing Street.
The result is a spectacular victory for one of Britain’s most flamboyant politicians, and places an avowed Brexit supporter in charge of the government for the first time since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in the shock 2016 referendum.
The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and has fueled soul-searching about everything from regional secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire, the loss of faith, and what it means to be British.
Brexit, which has already toppled two Conservative prime ministers, will dominate.
Johnson has pledged to negotiate a new Brexit divorce deal with the EU to secure before the end of October. But if the bloc refuses, as it insists it will, he has promised to leave anyway—”do or die”—on Halloween.
It is a step that many investors and economists say would send shock waves through world markets and tip the world’s fifth-largest economy into uncertain economic times. Others say the move could be an economic boon.
President Donald Trump, who predicted Johnson’s win three years ago even before Johnson contemplated running, said the United States will stand by it’s former colonial oppressor and now, strongest ally in the world. The Trump administration has been developing for two years an economic deal that would bolster the British economy and ensure the island nation is not punished or isolated economically by the much larger economy on the continent that is dominated by Germany.
Johnson’s Conservatives will form a coalition to attain a majority and need the support of 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland’s Brexit-backing Democratic Unionist Party to govern.
Even then, the majority is wafer-thin – and some lawmakers have threatened to bring down the government, a step that would probably deepen Britain’s political crisis and lead to an election.