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Boris Johnson, Conservative Party
Image: imago-images/ZUMA Press

Johnson extends lead in Tory leadership race

June 19, 2019

Boris Johnson has increased his lead in the race to succeed Theresa May as Britain's next prime minister. Rory Stewart has been eliminated from the contest.


The third round of Britain's governing Conservative Party's leadership contest closed Wednesday, with Boris Johnson keeping the lead by winning143 out of 313 votes.

The remaining four candidates will face two further votes by lawmakers on Thursday, which will narrow down the contest to two candidates.  A final decision on Conservative Party leader — and Britain's next prime minister — is expected by the end of July, with some 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members deciding between the two top candidates.

In Wednesday's vote, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt took second place with 54 votes, Environment Secretary Michael Gove came in third with 51 votes, and Home Secretary Sajid Javid was fourth with 38 votes.

Read more: Boris Johnson emerges from hiding to promise timely Brexit

Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, finished last with 27 votes and was eliminated from the race.

A former foreign secretary and mayor of London, Johnson is emerging as the favorite to succeed Theresa May, who stepped down as prime minister earlier this month but is staying in office until her party can choose a new leader.

"We're gaining momentum," one of Johnson's campaign officials told Reuters news agency. 

Brexit at all costs?

Johnson has been a staunch Brexit supporter and has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline, raising the possibility of a so-called no-deal Brexit. 

Read more: 'No-deal Brexit would poison EU-UK relations for generations'

Stewart was considered unlikely to reach the final rounds of voting, as he was the only candidate who said he wouldn’t support Britain leaving the EU without a deal in place.

On Tuesday, Johnson said during a televised debate that any further Brexit delays would result in a "catastrophic loss of confidence in politics."

Javid has said he would also leave the EU without an agreement, rather than further delaying Brexit. Grove and Hunt have both said that they would seek a temporary postponement to secure a deal.

The EU has repeatedly said that it won't renegotiate the Brexit deal it had agreed to with May's government, which has been rejected three times by Britain's Parliament.

wmr/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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