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ELECTION 2022

With Boris Johnson tipped to win PM race, UK eyes rocky ride

WORLD
By Agencies | Jul 22nd 2019 | 3 min read

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London after attending the weekly cabinet meeting on June 26, 2018. [AFP]

On Tuesday, the UK's governing Conservatives will announce the winner of a contest to replace Theresa May as leader of the party and the country. Just over three months later, on October 31, Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.

With the new British leader on a collision course with both the EU and Britain's Parliament over Brexit, the UK could be heading for a political crisis, a recession, an election, a referendum — or several of those options at the same time.

"It's a very fluid situation, said Nick Wright, an expert on EU politics at University College London. "Literally, anything could happen."

Barring a major upset, Britain's next prime minister will be Boris Johnson (pictured). The buoyant former foreign secretary is so far ahead with bookies and pollsters that it will be a huge shock if rival Jeremy Hunt is declared the victor tomorrow.

Mr Johnson, who sometimes has an ambiguous relationship with facts, campaigned with characteristic bluster, vowing to revive the country's "mojo" and making one main promise: Britain will leave the EU on October 31, "come what may."

He may find that promise hard to keep. The new leader heads a government with no parliamentary majority in a deeply divided country that is facing off with a mistrustful EU.

The prime minister is due to take office on Wednesday in a smoothly choreographed political handover.

Ms May will travel to Buckingham Palace and ask Queen Elizabeth II to invite her Conservative successor to form a government. Johnson — or, less likely, Hunt — will speak to the nation in front of his new home at 10 Downing Street that afternoon.

The new leader could face a challenge before he has even had a chance to unpack. The opposition Labour Party is considering calling a no-confidence vote in the Conservative government on Thursday. It would only take a handful of Conservative rebels to defeat the government and — unless it can overturn that vote within 14 days — trigger an early election.

The good news for the prime minister is that Parliament is due to start its six-week summer break on Friday and Labour will probably decide to wait until the fall before making a move.

Finance Minister Philip Hammond yesterday said he would resign if Johnson wins because he felt unable to support a leader happy to take the country out of the EU without a deal.

Mr Hammond's decision underlines the strength of feeling in parliament against a no-deal Brexit, which some lawmakers and many businesses say would be catastrophic for the economy.

A loyal Conservative who has served in a number of ministerial roles, Hammond is an unlikely rebel. He said his fears over a no-deal forced him to vote against the government for the first time in his 22-year political career last week.

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