Boris Johnson agrees to resign as British prime minister

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LONDON — Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that he will stand down as prime minister of the U.K. after bowing to pressure from his own political party following a wave of resignations.

Johnson had remained defiant to stay on as leader of the country despite calls to quit. A source from the government told Sky News on Thursday morning that he did “not intend to resign” and was going to “fight on.” The night before, Johnson fired newly appointed Cabinet minister and loyal supporter Michael Gove after he had urged the prime minister to resign.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads a statement formally resigning as Conservative Party leader on Thursday. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Hours later, a source close to the prime minister said he had spoken with the chairman of the 1922 Committee, a group of Conservative politicians who do not hold official positions in government, and agreed to stand down.

On Thursday morning, Johnson’s new chancellor of the Exchequer told him he had to “go now,” while his newly appointed education secretary resigned just 36 hours after taking office.

Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, also announced on Thursday morning that he had withdrawn his support for the prime minister.

In a speech in front of his residence at No. 10 Downing St., Johnson said he would continue to carry on as prime minister until a new Conservative Party leader has been chosen. That is expected to happen before the party conference in October.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads a statement at No. 10 Downing St. in London.
Johnson at No. 10 Downing St. in London on Thursday. (Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters)

However, a number of members of Parliament are calling for a stand-in prime minister in a bid to stop Johnson from continuing as leader until the fall.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer threatened to call a vote of no confidence in the government if Johnson is allowed to “cling on” as prime minister. “He needs to go completely,” the Labour Party leader warned. “None of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months. He’s inflicted lies, fraud and chaos in the country. We’re stuck with a government which isn’t functioning in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

In his resignation speech, Johnson said, “No one in politics is remotely indispensable” and that he stayed on because “I thought it was my job, my duty and my obligation to you.”

Posting to Twitter hours after his appearance in front of No.10, Johnson thanked the British public for the opportunity to serve as prime minister and reiterated that he would continue to serve the country until his successor was chosen.

President Biden released a statement on Johnson's resignation, saying "the special relationship between our people remains strong and enduring." He added he looks forward to "continuing our close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom, as well as our Allies and partners around the world."

It follows a dramatic 48 hours that saw 59 Cabinet ministers and aides quit their positions in protest over Johnson’s leadership. The party rebellion began on Tuesday evening when two of Johnson’s most senior ministers resigned due to what they described as a lack of confidence in his leadership.

The resignations followed Johnson’s admission over knowing about sexual misconduct allegations against a former deputy chief whip and still appointing him to his position in February.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid made their respective resignation announcements to the public via Twitter after Johnson’s admission.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021.
Johnson with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, left, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in London in 2021. (Toby Melville/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

“The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” Sunak, the nation’s top treasury official, wrote. “I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

In Javid’s letter to Johnson, he wrote that he could no longer continue his position “in good conscience.” On Wednesday, Javid made a blistering speech in the House of Commons in which he said he stood by Johnson but that “the events of recent months have made it increasingly difficult to be in that team.”

It was a huge blow to the government to lose its chancellor and health secretary when the country is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and in the middle of a coronavirus spike.

Last month, Johnson survived a vote of no confidence in Parliament that would have forced him from office had it been successful. The vote came amid fierce Conservative infighting stemming from a series of scandals that have hobbled him, most notably revelations that he had attended parties in defiance of his own government’s COVID lockdown rules.

Boris Johnson enters his official residence at No. 10 Downing St.
Johnson enters his official residence at No. 10 Downing St. after his resignation speech. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)