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UK ministers to quit if Johnson wins PM race

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-22 07:30
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves the BBC studios in London, Britain, July 21, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Boris Johnson's expected confirmation as Britain's next prime minister this week is likely to prompt resignations as Cabinet members quit to show their opposition to his "do or die" approach to Brexit.

The former London mayor has wooed Conservatives with a promise to get Britain out of the European Union, vowing to deliver Brexit on Oct 31, come what may, despite fierce opposition in Parliament.

A postal ballot of 160,000 Conservative Party members is expected to return Johnson as the new leader, defeating British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, when the result is announced on Tuesday. Bookmakers give Hunt a chance of victory of around 1 in 15. The victor would take over as prime minister the following afternoon, leaving a 24-hour window for any potential resignations.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has said he intends to resign if Johnson becomes prime minister, and Justice Secretary David Gauke has said he too will quit.

Hammond told Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday that he would resign before she formally leaves her post. He said it was important that both next prime minister and chancellor were "closely aligned" on Brexit policy.

"That is what is likely to happen, and I'm making my plans accordingly", he said, adding he would wait until the result is announced on Tuesday to "see for sure".

Johnson has said the UK must leave the European Union by the new Brexit deadline of Oct 31"do or die, come what may".

Hammond said he understood that a commitment to the Brexit divorce by that date, even with no deal, would be a condition for serving in Johnson's Cabinet.

Gauke, who has served in May's Cabinet since she took office in June 2016, said he would not be able to serve under Johnson, a former foreign secretary, if he pursues a no-deal Brexit. Gauke told the Sunday Times that crashing out of the EU would lead to national "humiliation".

"If the test of loyalty to stay in the Cabinet is a commitment to support no-deal on Oct 31-which, to be fair to him, Boris has consistently said-then that's not something I'm prepared to sign up to.

"I recognize that this spell in government is coming to an end. Given that I've been in the Cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign to her."

Meanwhile, protesters have taken to the streets in London for a "No to Boris. Yes to Europe" march days before Johnson is widely expected to move into No 10 Downing Street.

In promoting their anti-Johnson march held on Saturday, organizers said it would "make it clear to Boris Johnson that we want to stop the Brexit chaos".

"This is a national emergency. We won't put up with a hard Brexit PM being imposed on the country and hurtling us toward the cliff edge.

"We can only solve the big global challenges-from climate change to terrorism-by working with Europe and the rest of the world.

"We can build that better tomorrow through the most successful peace project in history. No to Boris. Yes to Europe."

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