The European Union has rejoiced at Boris Johnson pulling out of the race to become Prime Minister, as the notion of him returning to office was branded a “disgrace”. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak looks set to become Britain’s next prime minister after his rival Mr Johnson quit the race, admitting that he could no longer unite their party following one of the most turbulent periods in British political history.
Mr Johnson has loomed large over British politics for years. He led his party to a landslide election victory in 2019 but was forced out of Downing Street less than three years later following a string of scandals.
Mr Sunak will face one of the most daunting set of challenges, tasked with rebuilding Britain’s fiscal reputation through deep spending cuts as it slides into a recession, dragged down by surging energy, food and mortgage rates.
He will also preside over a party that has bounced from one crisis to the next in recent months, badly split along ideological lines, and a country that is growing increasingly angry at the conduct of its politicians.
“The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis,” the former Chancellor said in a statement declaring his candidacy on Sunday.
In the EU, officials have been rejoicing for Mr Johnson’s decision to drop out of the race.
Brussels correspondent for The Guardian Jennifer Rankin said: “A sense of relief in Brussels that Boris Johnson will not be Britain’s next prime minister.”
An EU diplomat told her: “Who knows what we’ll get under Rishi. But Boris Johnson would have been terrible.”
Echoing her claims, BBC Brussels correspondent Jessica Parker tweeted: “A sigh of relief in EU circles that Boris Johnson won’t make a return as UK PM (shock, horror – many here aren’t big fans).
“Rishi Sunak was and is the preferred option – a Brexit supporter but someone who diplomats and officials see as more ‘pragmatic’.”
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Former Europeaan Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou went even further, claiming a return of Boris Johnson would have been a “disgrace”.
She tweeted: “Although I know it is not right to interfere in the internal politics of any country, I cannot resist saying that a re election of Boris Johnson would be a disgrace and a humiliation for the UK.”
She added: “Hearing of Boris Johnson’s withdrawal from the race for PM, a friend of mine from England reacted: ‘There is God’. Aren’t they lucky?”
Reacting to those opposed to a return to Downing Street by Boris Johnson, former aide to Margaret Thatcher Nile Gardiner said: “Angry left wing trolls (many of them bitter, pro EU Remainers) out on manoeuvres today, going into meltdown over the prospect of Boris Johnson potentially coming back as Prime Minister. The level of hate these people have is just staggering.”
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Many of Mr Johnson’s supporters had previously accused Mr Sunak of betrayal after he quit as finance minister in the summer, triggering the rebellion that forced Mr Johnson out Mr Sunak first came to national attention when, aged 39, he became Chancellor under Boris Johnson just as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Britain, developing a furlough scheme to support millions of people through multiple lockdowns.
If chosen, the former Goldman Sachs analyst would be the United Kingdom’s first prime minister of Indian origin.
His family migrated to Britain in the 1960s, a period when many people from Britain’s former colonies arrived to help rebuild the country after the Second World War.
After graduating from Oxford University, he later went to Stanford University where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, founder of outsourcing giant Infosys Ltd. He also worked at Goldman Sachs as an analyst.