Brexit campaign leader Boris Johnson won’t run for leadership of UK’s Conservative Party

LONDON (TIP): The race to become Britain’s next prime minister took a dramatic last-minute turn with former London mayor Boris Johnson —considered a frontrunner — ruling himself out of the race after the defection of a key ally on Thursday.

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.

“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” he said.

Johnson dropped out after justice secretary Michael Gove, Johnson’s ally in the EU “leave” campaign, astonished the political world by announcing that he was running to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron. Home secretary Theresa May and work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb are also in the race.

The winner of the contest, to be announced September 9, will become prime minister and play a vital role shaping the nature of Britain’s relationship with the European Union after last week’s Brexit vote ended the career of Cameron, whose bid to keep Britain in the EU block failed.

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The bookies’ early favorite is May, who is seen by many in the party as a safe pair of hands as the country struggles to disentangle itself from the EU.

“This is not a normal leadership held under normal circumstances,” May said in a speech Thursday in London. “The result means we face a period of uncertainty we need to address head on.” Although May had offered a tepid endorsement of Britain’s place in the European Union during the referendum campaign, she was clear that the vote would be respected.

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