Boris Johnson set to assume office as Britain’s 77th prime minister


LONDON — As a boy Boris Johnson said he wanted to be “world king” when he grew up. On Wednesday, he will have to settle for being British prime minister.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, known professionally as Boris Johnson, will assume office following an audience with the queen at Buckingham Palace. This followed him being chosen as leader of the ruling Conservative Party on Tuesday.

Britain’s 77th prime minister will then head to Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s leaders, where he is expected to give a speech before appointing key members of his government.

The 55-year-old, whose sister in an interview last year said her big brother’s childhood ambition was to be “world king,” may find that being prime minister of the U.K. is challenge enough.

New York-born Johnson takes office at one of the most critical junctures in British politics in post-World War II history.

The U.K. is bitterly divided over whether and how to leave the European Union, a seemingly intractable dispute that has strained party loyalties across the political spectrum. Johnson also faces escalating tensions with Iran after Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week. Earlier this month, Britain seized an Iranian vessel it suspected of transporting embargoed oil to Syria.

Johnson, who has followed a well-trodden path to the top of British politics — he attended the elite boarding school, Eton College, before heading to Oxford University — will also need to try to heal a country exhausted by a decade of post-2008 financial crisis austerity.

The former mayor of London has given himself three months to deliver Brexit, with Britain due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 — regardless of whether his government can strike a new withdrawal deal with the bloc’s negotiators. He is expected to appoint a cabinet of committed pro-Brexit lawmakers, while including some pro-E.U. voices in an effort to unite the Conservatives.

Nevertheless, even with a team of true-believers, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Johnson hopes to renegotiate the E.U. withdrawal deal that his predecessor Prime Minister Theresa May painstakingly hammered out with the 27 other leaders of E.U. member states.

Moments after Johnson’s election, the E.U. reiterated its position that it will not reopen the divorce deal negotiated by May. If he is unable to persuade E.U. leaders to change their minds, Johnson has pledged to leave the bloc without a deal.

Many experts and industry leaders warn that “no-deal Brexit” could spell economic catastrophe for Britain, not to mention its closest European neighbors. It could also trigger shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies.

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