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Voting ends in contest to find UK's next prime minister

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-22 23:49

This two-photo combo image shows Jeremy Hunt (left) and Boris Johnson. [Photo/IC]

The lengthy process to choose the United Kingdom's next prime minister ended on Monday evening, drawing a line under a battle that divided the ruling Conservative Party and put Britain's pending exit from the European Union on the backburner.

The successful candidate, either hardline Brexiteer Boris Johnson or Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, was set to be named at midday on Tuesday.

Pundits were expecting an easy win for Johnson.

The pair were the last people standing in a race that initially involved 10 hopefuls and were separated in a postal ballot of the Conservative Party's 160,000 members.

The winner will replace Theresa May, who resigned on May 24,as both prime minister and party leader and take office on Wednesday.

Several senior members of the Conservative Party have already said they will not work with Johnson, should he prevail.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that he will resign as head of the nation's Treasury because he cannot support Johnson's aim of dragging the UK out of the EU on Oct 31, regardless of whether an acceptable divorce deal is in place.

"Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on October 31 and it's not something that I could ever sign up to," he said.

Hammond has been in the Cabinet since 2010 and has also served as the minister in charge of transport, and of defense, and also as foreign secretary.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said in the Sunday Times he too will resign if Johnson is declared leader. International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has also indicated he will stand down, as has Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Hunt has been more conciliatory in his Brexit posturing than Johnson, saying he would delay the UK's departure if there is a chance of a better divorce deal being found.

Johnson reiterated his stance in a column in the Daily Telegraph, saying the UK has time to find a new deal if it "rediscovers its sense of mission".

"We can come out of the EU on 31 October, and yes, we certainly have the technology to do so," he wrote. "What we need now is the will and the spirit."

Johnson supporter and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab echoed those sentiments on BBC Radio 4's Today program, saying Johnson has the "self belief" the nation needs.

"We've risen to greater challenges before in the past," he said. "We should manage the risk but also grasp the opportunities which we don't get a chance to talk enough about."

Britain's left-leaning Mirror newspaper said on Monday that Johnson, if he is indeed named the UK's next leader, will be in for a bumpy ride once he takes office, with additional resignations expected. The paper predicted he will lead the "most divisive Conservative government since Margaret Thatcher" and that there will now be "a bitter party civil war".

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