Boris Johnson, the Brexiteer who has promised to lead Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by the end of October, will replace Theresa May as prime minister after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party on Tuesday.
His convincing victory catapults the United Kingdom towards a showdown with the EU and towards a constitutional crisis at home, as British lawmakers have vowed to bring down any government that tries to leave the bloc without a divorce deal.
Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit referendum, won the votes of 92,153 members of the Conservative party, almost twice the 46,656 won by 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.
“We are going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31, and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of ‘can do’,” Johnson, 55, said after the result was announced.
“Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”
Johnson said the mantra of his leadership campaign had been to “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat (opposition Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn – and that is what we are going to do”.
Within half an hour of his victory, U.S. President Donald Trump had tweeted his congratulations, adding: “He will be great!”.
The men have recently been complimentary about each other – yet Trump is one of the many world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, about whom Johnson has previously made derogatory remarks. In 2015, he accused Trump, then a candidate for office, of “stupefying ignorance” that made him unfit to be president.
The victory for one of Britain’s most flamboyant politicians 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.
But Johnson – known for his ambition, untidy blond hair, flowery oratory and cursory command of policy detail – takes office at one of the most tumultuous junctures in post-World War Two British history.
The pound has fallen sharply in recent weeks on fears of a no-deal Brexit, and stands near $1.24 GBP=D3, around its lowest level for two years. With Johnson’s win already priced in, it was little changed on Tuesday.
The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and has fuelled soul-searching about everything from regional secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire, and modern Britishness.