Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and an outspoken champion of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, has emerged as the front-runner to replace outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May. The outcome could add chaos to the already uncertain withdrawal process, according to Mai’a Cross, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at Northeastern.
May, who is a member of Britain’s Conservative party, will be replaced in July by either Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, following a vote by the roughly 160,000 members of May’s party. Whoever takes the office will be in charge of coordinating the U.K.’s divorce from the E.U., a process known as Brexit. And it’s likely that Johnson—a popular figure among Conservatives and the leader in the race—will be that person, says Cross, whose research focuses on international cooperation and European foreign policy.
The decision to leave was born out of a June, 2016 referendum, in which citizens of the U.K. narrowly voted to withdraw from the European Union. Johnson was a vocal advocate for leaving the E.U., a position he’s maintained throughout numerous delays as British and European leaders failed to agree upon a plan for leaving. The most recent extension by the E.U. gives the U.K. until Oct. 31 to come up with a plan to leave.