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Johnson promises ‘can-do spirit’ to deliver Brexit after Tory leadership victory

The former foreign secretary will become the country’s new prime minister on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson speaks after being announced as the new Conservative Party leader and next prime minister (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Boris Johnson speaks after being announced as the new Conservative Party leader and next prime minister (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Boris Johnson will become the UK’s next prime minister after securing a landslide victory in the Tory leadership contest.

The new Conservative Party leader used his victory speech to promise that he would meet the October 31 Brexit deadline with a “new spirit of can-do”, releasing the country’s “guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity”.

Mr Johnson secured more than two-thirds of the votes in the contest, comfortably defeating Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

He said it was an “extraordinary honour and privilege” and insisted that “we are going to unite this amazing country and we are going to take it forward”.

At the leadership announcement event in central London, Mr Johnson said: “We are going to get Brexit done on October 31, we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do.

“And we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Improved education, infrastructure, more police and full-fibre broadband are among the ways Mr Johnson said this would be achieved.

But Mr Johnson’s main task will be fulfilling his “do or die” promise to deliver Brexit on October 31, which he has said he will do with or without a deal.

Theresa May, who will resign as Prime Minister on Wednesday, offered her congratulations but stressed that Mr Johnson should work “to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK”, a clear warning against a no-deal departure.

She promised Mr Johnson “my full support from the back benches”.

US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised Mr Johnson even while visiting Mrs May, said he would be a “great” prime minister.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said Brussels looked forward to working with the new prime minister on ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement – the deal which Mr Johnson has already declared dead.

Mr Barnier said the EU was ready to “rework” the Political Declaration on the future relationship.

Mr Johnson will be appointed as prime minister on Wednesday by the Queen after Mrs May formally resigns.

He secured 92,153 votes – 66.4% – to defeat Mr Hunt in the leadership ballot.

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(PA Graphics)

Despite the resounding victory, Mr Johnson’s share of the vote was slightly lower than that achieved by David Cameron in the 2005 Conservative leadership election, when he took 67.6%.

Mr Johnson faces a daunting in-tray at Number 10, not only the tight Brexit deadline but also the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, where tensions have been heightened following Iran’s seizure of the British-registered Stena Impero tanker.

The challenge facing Mr Johnson is made even more difficult by a wafer-thin Tory-DUP majority of two in the Commons, with the prospect of it being reduced to just one if the Conservatives fail to win the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on August 1.

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Boris Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson and sister Rachel Johnson at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London awaiting the leadership result

The incoming premier has been left in no doubt about the opposition he will face from his own benches if he attempts to force through a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Alan Duncan quit as a Foreign Office minister on Monday and Anne Milton as education minister on Tuesday, rather than serve under Mr Johnson.

Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart are expected to join them on the back benches after the leadership change.

Mr Stewart congratulated Mr Johnson, and confirmed he would return to the back benches on Wednesday, tweeting: “Backbench tomorrow serving Cumbria. Thank you all. More walking!”

Chancellor Philip Hammond, who will resign from the Government on Wednesday afternoon, also congratulated Mr Johnson and said he had his “wholehearted support” in seeking a deal with Brussels.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Mr Johnson to  call a general election.

He said: “Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend, and pushing for a damaging no-deal Brexit. But he hasn’t won the support of our country.”

Mr Johnson is expected to spend Tuesday afternoon preparing his speech and finalising who he would like in his Cabinet, before making appointments on Wednesday evening.

Sherwood MP Mark Spencer, a long-standing whip, is rumoured to be the front-runner for the role of Chief Whip in Mr Johnson’s new administration.

He will address the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs at 4pm on Tuesday, and also visit the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ).

Mr Hunt said Mr Johnson would make a “great prime minister” and conceded he had had a “big mountain to climb” in the contest.

“I never felt it was too much of an uphill struggle but I always knew that it was going to be a big mountain to climb,” the Foreign Secretary told the BBC.

“I think Boris fought a very, very good campaign. It was a very clear campaign, his messages were absolutely clear and I think, as I say, he will now be a great prime minister.

“It’s a challenging moment for our country – this is perhaps the most difficult legacy that a prime minister has inherited in peacetime. It’s going to be very challenging.

“But he has got the confidence and the optimism and the energy to get us through this and that’s why I think he will be a great prime minister.”

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