Battle to unite country and party begins as Boris Johnson builds his Cabinet

Boris Johnson will become prime minister this afternoon after being handed a landslide victory by Conservative Party members, but faces an immediate challenge over his Brexit policy with just 100 days until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

The new prime minister will begin assembling his government this afternoon after walkouts by some of Theresa May’s most senior ministers, who refused to serve under Mr Johnson and oppose any move towards a no-deal Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon, who is expected to meet Mr Johnson when he visits Scotland next week, said she had “profound concerns” about his premiership, and suggested the Scottish Government could “accelerate” its plans for a second independence referendum.

And the EU insisted it would stick with the existing Brexit deal that Mr Johnson has repeatedly said is “dead”, with the European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans warning a no-deal Brexit would be a “tragedy” for both sides. But the new Tory leader received a swift and warm endorsement from US president Donald Trump, who praised him as “Britain Trump” and said: “Boris is good.”

Mr Johnson defeated Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt by a two-to-one margin. Picture: Getty

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Mr Johnson defeated Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt by a two-to-one margin, securing 92,153 votes to Mr Hunt’s 46,656. He used his victory speech to promise he will “energise the country” and meet the 31 October Brexit deadline with a “new spirit of can-do”.

Acknowledging his divisive style, Mr Johnson said: “I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision. And there may even be some people here who still wonder quite what they have done. I would just point out to you of course nobody, no one party, no one person has a monopoly of wisdom. But if you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party’s existence, you will see that it is we Conservatives who have had the best insights, I think, into human nature.”

Continuing the upbeat theme, Mr Johnson added: “Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity”.

But with Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart set to resign today ahead of Mr Johnson’s arrival at Number 10, fears remain over his ability to find a resolution to the Brexit crisis.

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One Conservative MP told The Scotsman: “He said he would unite the country, but what about uniting the party? That’s going to be the harder job. This lot are like a bunch of spoiled children.”

Mr Johnson’s Downing Street operation swung into gear last night, with rising stars among the junior ministerial ranks tipped for promotion in a government of “all the talents”.

In a sign that he will seek to reach out across a divided Conservative Party, several MPs who campaigned to Remain in the EU were pencilled in for jobs in Mr Johnson’s government, and his administration is set to include a record number of ministers from minority backgrounds.

The former sports minister Tracey Crouch, who resigned over the handling of a cap on stakes for fixed-odds betting machines, is set to return to government. There are also promotions on the cards for Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden and Robert Jenrick.

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A source close to Mr Johnson said he would “build a Cabinet showcasing all the talents within the party that truly reflect modern Britain”.

Mark Spencer will become Mr Johnson’s chief whip. It was reported that Sky’s chief financial officer Andrew Griffith, who owns the £9.5 million Westminster townhouse used by Mr Johnson as a campaign base, will be a corporate adviser to the new prime minister.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose ten MPs prop up the Tories at Westminster, said she had spoken to Mr Johnson and confirmed the deal remains in place, although its terms would be reviewed – a possible sign the party could demand more cash for Northern Ireland. “We discussed our shared objectives of strengthening every part of the Union, ensuring the 2016 referendum result is implemented and seeing devolution restored in Northern Ireland,” she said.

Conceding his campaign was hampered by his vote to remain in the EU, Mr Hunt said the new Tory leader would be “a great PM for our country at this critical moment”.

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Mrs May, who will resign today, offered her congratulations, but stressed Mr Johnson should work “to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK”.