LONDON – The UK’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is a clear favorite to take over as leader of the Conservative Party and thus become prime minister this week as Theresa May steps down over her failure to deliver Brexit.
The Conservative Party, which governs in a minority, is set to announce its new leader on Tuesday.
May offered her resignation in late May after the House of Commons, the UK’s lower parliamentary chamber, blocked her flagship Brexit withdrawal bill, which was negotiated with the European Union for over two years, no less than three times.
Having initially been penciled in to leave the bloc on March 29, the UK is now due to leave on October 31.
In the last six weeks, the party has been deliberating over who was best to take the reins from May amid a deeper internal political crisis in the center-right outfit revolving around the kind of Brexit the country should pursue.
Initially, 10 Conservative MPs put themselves forward for a shot at Downing Street but they have since been whittled down to just two, Johnson and current foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Now it falls to the party’s roughly 160,000 members to decide who is up for the UK’s top political post. Both candidates have been up and down the country to charm those voters.
The winner of the membership ballot will likely take power on Wednesday.
Earlier that same day, May will take part in her final Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons before heading to Buckingham Palace to inform Queen Elizabeth II that the Conservative Party has a new leader.
After that, it will be the turn of the new leader to head to the royal palace to confirm the new post.
They will then be expected to give a speech outside Downing Street before outlining their new cabinet.
The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has already said he would quite if Johnson becomes the new prime minister.
The biggest internal fault lines in the UK Conservative party can be found between factions of those who are pro-EU, those who support a soft-Brexit and those in favor of a harder exit from the bloc.
Johnson, who campaigned to leave the EU, has repeatedly insisted during his leadership bid that he would deliver Brexit on October 31 and has not taken a possible no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK would simply crash out without an agreement in place, off the table.
Hunt has also pledged to deliver Brexit on October 31 but has said he would be open to another delay if a breakthrough looked possible at the end of September.
Brexit talks have been stagnant for months.
MPs recently passed an amendment designed to stop the next PM from being able to suspend parliament as a way to force a hard Brexit.
Many in the UK worry that the economy would be severely damaged by a no-deań Brexit, as the UK would revert to trading on WTO terms.
Indeed, the UK’s Office of Budget Responsibility, which advises the government, warned this week that a no-deal Brexit would result in an economic recession.