Field narrows to six in race to become British PM

Field narrows to six in race to become British PM”

Johnson says he's determined to deliver on the 2016 referendum result and take Britain out of the European Union by the deadline of October 31, even if that means leaving without a deal.

With Johnson so far ahead in the first round of voting, the media have speculated that some rivals might withdraw to allow a more focused challenge to the man who led the official Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum. "I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go", Mr Johnson said on Twitter.

Outsiders Andrea Leadsom (11 votes), Mark Harper (10 votes) and Esther McVey (9 votes) left the leadership race. Michael Gove's team had also been making overtures to Hancock, believing their candidate could take on Johnson most effectively.

Before his confirmation, Mr Johnson faced accusations that he was trying to avoid hard questions.

From the Thursday vote it's clear that even if all of the votes for the departing contenders go to Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson will continue to be the clear favorite. Candidates need 33 votes to make it through to the second round next week.

A postal ballot of the wider Conservative Party membership will then be held to pick a leader.

Johnson said his Conservatives and the main opposition Labour faced an "existential threat" from populist Nigel Farage's Brexit Party and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

There had been speculation that the contest could be accelerated due to Mr Johnson's strong lead, but there was no immediate sign of rivals bowing out of the race. The victor will become the new prime minister automatically, though Queen Elizabeth still has to approve the choice.

"This serious moment calls for a serious leader", he tweeted.

A second round of voting among lawmakers takes place on Tuesday as the candidates are whittled down to a final two before 160,000 Conservative grassroots members choose the next leader and prime minister by the end of July.

"We will see what happens over the next few weeks", Patel said when asked by the BBC if Johnson would join the debates.

"We can only have that debate if our frontrunner in this campaign is a little bit braver in terms of getting out into the media, engaging in debates, engaging in the TV debate", Hunt, who came a distant second in the first round, told BBC radio.

Mr Johnson, whose unconventional style has helped him shrug off a series of scandals in the past, has won over much of his party by arguing that only he can rescue the Conservatives by delivering Brexit.

But many Conservative MPs felt it was a "bad deal" and several of her ministers quit over concerns about the Irish backstop, which was supposed to prevent border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Johnson said the "fundamental flaw" in the current Withdrawal Agreement is the Irish backstop, and claimed a solution could be found.

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