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Boris Johnson formally took over as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday, beginning his mission to deliver Brexit by October 31 by any means necessary.
The former London mayor, a divisive figure best known for his gaffes and rhetorical flourishes, was officially named as prime minister during a visit to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
In his first speech as leader outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson vowed to “get a new deal, a better deal” from the EU on Brexit, and to leave the union by the October 31 deadline “no ifs, ands or buts”.
With just over three months before Britain is due to leave the European Union, Johnson has no time to lose and is expected to swiftly announce his cabinet and advisers.
His first move was to appoint as a top aide Dominic Cummings, the Brexit campaign chief in the 2016 EU referendum, in which Johnson played a leading role.
May resigned after failing to get her plan for leaving the EU through parliament, forcing her to twice delay Britain’s departure date.
Johnson, 55, has vowed to renegotiate her deal or take Britain out of the bloc at the next deadline, October 31, without a deal.
But the EU refuses to reopen the text, while some of his own MPs say they would rather bring down his government than accept a damaging “no deal” exit.
The pound barely moved on Wednesday, with investors keen to see whether he pushes ahead with a no-deal divorce.
Johnson has never hidden his ambition for power, using his trademark jokes and bluster to pull off unlikely electoral victories, but he takes over at a time of immense upheaval.
May became prime minister three years ago promising to deal with the “burning injustices” in society, but her time in office was dominated with Brexit wrangling.
She leaves behind a divided Conservative party — and country — and a government with only a wafer-thin majority in parliament.
Several ministers resigned before Johnson took office, including finance minister Philip Hammond, who has condemned the “no deal” threat as deeply irresponsible.
During May’s final appearance in parliament on Wednesday, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged her to join him and Hammond to “oppose the reckless plans of her successor”. She shook her head.
Johnson was elected overwhelmingly by Conservative party members but is not as popular among the wider public.
A survey by the YouGov polling institute on Wednesday found his approval rating was just 31 percent.
In a sign of how rocky his premiership is likely to be, the incoming PM was briefly blocked on his way to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday by Greenpeace activists.
During his victory speech on Tuesday, Johnson urged Britain to “ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity” and vowed to unite the country.
A source in his campaign team said he would build a diverse cabinet with more women and a record number of ethnic minority politicians.
Sajid Javid, the son of a Pakistani immigrants and currently May’s interior minister, has been widely tipped to take over at the Treasury.
Brexit supporter Priti Patel, who May sacked as international aid minister for unauthorised contacts with the Israeli government, is also likely to get a top job.
Questions remain over Johnson’s rival in the leadership contest, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
His job is highly sensitive, as Britain is currently embroiled in a stand-off with Iran after Tehran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Gulf last week.
May’s government also provoked the ire of US President Donald Trump this month with the leak of diplomatic cables criticising the White House.
Johnson has emphasised the importance of Britain’s relations with the United States.
And Trump was one of the first to congratulate Johnson on his victory, saying he would be “great” and describing him as “Britain Trump”.
Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019
Trump suggested Johnson would work together well with anti-EU figurehead Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party has taken a big chunk of eurosceptic votes from the Conservatives.
Johnson has ruled out any electoral pact.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)