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Ex-London Mayor Quits Race to Be Next PM, May Vows to Honor Brexit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Vote Leave campaign leader, Boris Johnson, waves as he finishes delivering his speech in London, Britain June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The race to become Britain’s next prime minister took a dramatic last-minute turn after former London mayor Boris Johnson abruptly pulled out of the race to become Britain’s next prime minister on Thursday.

Johnson’s sudden move upturned a political order shaken by last week’s vote to leave the European Union.

Johnson, a prominent campaigner for British withdrawal from the European Union, told a news conference that the next Conservative Party leader would have needs to ensure Britain’s standing in the world.

“I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech, that having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” he said.

Johnson’s unexpected departure from the race, announced just minutes before the party unveiled the list of candidates, shows the speed with which the political landscape is being reshaped.

Cameron’s replacement will face tough talks with the EU to mend a broken relationship — balancing a desire to reduce immigration to Britain while trying to secure the economy by maintaining access to European markets.

Among the candidates are Home Secretary Theresa May – who campaigned to remain in the EU – Energy minister Andrea Leadsom and former Defence Secretary Liam Fox – who campaigned to leave the EU – and Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, who backed Remain.

May, the bookmakers’ favorite to replace David Cameron as prime minister, said on Thursday there was no going back on Britain leaving the EU but that divorce talks would not start until the end of the year.

Launching her leadership bid, May said there would be no second referendum on EU membership, nor any bid to rejoin, and she also ruled out any immediate tax rises.

“Brexit means Brexit,” said May, 59, who backed the Remain campaign ahead of last week’s referendum although she kept a low profile.

“The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the public gave their verdict,” she said. “There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum.”

As Britain reels from the decision to leave the EU, speculation has grown that whoever takes over from Cameron might try to find a way to keep the country in the bloc which buys nearly half the country’s exports.

May said there should be no national election before 2020, the scheduled date for the end of the current parliament because it would add to the instability caused by Brexit, and also ruled out an emergency budget, a proposal made before the referendum by finance minister George Osborne.

She also said no decision should be made on whether to invoke article 50, the formal process of leaving the EU, until Britain had a clear negotiating strategy.

“(This) means article 50 should not be invoked before the end of this year,” she said.

In a related development, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on Thursday on remarks by British Interior Minister May on exit talks between Britain and the EU not starting until the end of the year.

“I don’t want to comment on every remark,” Merkel said during a news conference in Berlin when asked about May’s comments, adding that one should wait until the British conservatives decided on their next leader.