Boris Johnson confirms bid for leadership of Conservative Party

Britain's former foreign minister, Boris Johnson, an influential campaigner to leave the European Union, said on Thursday that he planned to stand as a candidate to replace Prime Minister Theresa May as Conservative leader.

May has said she will step down before the next phase of Brexit negotiations although she has not yet put a date on her departure.

"Of course I'm going to go for it," Johnson said in response to questions from BBC journalist Huw Edwards at a meeting of The British Insurance Brokers' Association.

Johnson resigned from the cabinet in July in protest at how May has handled the Brexit negotiations.

Brexit pace slow

As one of the more visible faces of the 2016 Brexit campaign, Johnson put forth his proposal to the membership in a speech at the party's annual conference in October where some members queued for hours to get a seat.

The deal Prime Minister May struck with the EU has been rejected three times by the House of Commons, leading to the EU twice granting the UK an extension. The delay has also postponed May's departure.

She announced this week that she would bring it back for a fourth and likely final time in the week beginning on June 3, hoping MPs feel extra pressure to break the deadlock after the two main parties take a drubbing in European Parliament elections.

May promised at the third attempt in March to step aside once a Brexit agreement passed through parliament.

She also faced the influential group of Conservative MPs known as the 1922 Committee on Thursday. The group's chairman Graham Brady subsequently said that May had pledged to discuss a timetable to step down in June.

This agreement was broadly seen as a compromise between May and her critics within the party, granting her a last shot at clearing Brexit's first major hurdle. Opposition Scottish National MP Ian Blackford quipped in Parliament: "The only thing we've learned from today's latest fudge is that Theresa May is so incompetent she can't even resign properly."

Three hats in the ring, so far

Johnson has been no stranger to scandal during his career as a political correspondent and subsequently as a politician.

Several other senior Conservatives are expected to enter the contest for the leadership as well, with the winner also becoming prime minister.

Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart — an advocate of a so-called "soft" Brexit — and former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey — who wants a "hard" Brexit — have announced they will run.

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom has said she is "considering" standing. Other possible contenders include former and current members of the cabinet, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has carried forward Johnson's gaffe-prone legacy since taking over the job.

Bookmakers currently believe that Johnson is the leading candidate to replace May, giving him a roughly 1-in-4 chance of claiming the job. Johnson was also seen as a frontrunner to succeed David Cameron in 2016, before surprisingly announcing he would not run.

av/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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