Boris Johnson has won the race to become the next British prime minister, but he will immediately face a confrontation over Brexit with Brussels and members of his own party, as well as a tense diplomatic stand-off with Iran.
The former London mayor beat his rival, the current British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a poll conducted among members of the governing Conservative Party.
He is expected to be confirmed as prime minister on Wednesday, when his predecessor Theresa May formally tenders her resignation to The Queen.
In his victory speech, Boris Johnson immediately promised to ‘deliver Brexit, unite the country, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.’
US President Donald Trump was quick to Tweet his ‘congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’, and adding: ‘He will be great!’
Johnson is taking over at a time of immense political upheaval. Three years after the referendum vote to leave the European Union, Britain remains a member, after twice delaying its exit amid continued wrangling in a divided parliament — and the country — on how to proceed.
Johnson led the 2016 Brexit campaign and has said the latest deadline of 31 October must be kept, with or without a divorce agreement with the EU.
But Brussels says it will not renegotiate the deal it struck with May, which was designed to ease the end of a 46-year partnership but which MPs have rejected.
A majority of lawmakers are against a ‘no deal’ Brexit, including many of Johnson’s colleagues.
Three cabinet ministers have already said they will not serve under Johnson, saying that severing ties with Britain’s closest trading partner with no new arrangements is deeply irresponsible.
The government’s official forecaster said last week that Britain will slide into a year-long recession should it leave the EU without a deal.
Westminster is watching for any early challenge to the new Conservative leader from within his party, which could stop him automatically becoming prime minister.
Barring that, he will be confirmed by The Queen on Wednesday before moving straight into Downing Street.
With just months before the Brexit deadline, Johnson is expected to hit the ground running, announcing his cabinet and other top posts in the next few days.
May’s government currently has a majority of just two in the 650-seat House of Commons, made possible through an alliance with the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Finance Minister Philip Hammond and two other cabinet ministers have already announced they will step down, as has junior foreign minister Alan Duncan.
Johnson’s domestic battles might have to take a backseat during his first days in office as he manages tensions with Iran.
Foreign Secretary Hunt has branded as ‘state piracy’ Iran’s seizure of Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz last Friday.
It came two weeks after Britain held an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of breaching sanctions on Syria.
The stand-off comes amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States over the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.