The U.K.’s Conservative Party announced former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as its new leader Tuesday, making the one-time mayor of London the next prime minister of the country as it grapples with the existential question of how to exit the European Union. Johnson was the clear favorite of the party rank and file to replace Theresa May, who announced her resignation earlier this year after unsuccessfully navigating the country’s withdrawal from the EU. Johnson handily defeated current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the final round of voting, coasting to victory with 66 percent of the vote that 87 percent of 159,320 Tory Party members participated in.
Johnson’s election now turns the country’s focus back to Brexit, which the new leader committed on the campaign trail to honoring in some form or another by the Oct. 31 deadline extension granted by Brussels. Johnson hasn’t offered a new roadmap for how exactly he plans to make that happen other than exuding a sunnier can-do attitude about the political mess. “We’re going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31, we’re going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do, and we’re once again going to believe in ourselves,” Johnson promised during his victory speech Tuesday. “Like some slumbering giant, we’re going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of doubt and negativity.”
As prime minister, Johnson will take the helm of a deeply divided Tory Party that controls the government but is now being outflanked on the matter by the single-issue Brexit Party, as well as a country mired in political turmoil that Johnson himself helped create. As an MP, Johnson was a high-profile and vocal advocate for leaving the European Union, despite his party’s official support for remaining in the political and economic bloc. After pulling off a shock victory, Johnson, who made many dubious claims about the benefits of withdrawal, quickly withdrew himself, leaving the party’s leadership contest to select who would actually have to implement the vote for separation.
Johnson will meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to get her formal approval of his ascension.