LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived at Queen Elizabeth II’s estate in Scotland to formally tender his resignation to pave the way for Liz Truss to succeed him amid an acute cost of living crisis facing the country.
Johnson will eventually leave office following a carefully choreographed audience with the monarch at Balmoral which takes place two months after he announced his intention to step down.
Truss, who was named leader of the ruling Conservative party on Monday, will be named Prime Minister during his own meeting with the Queen shortly afterwards.
Speaking outside his Downing Street office early on Tuesday before heading to Scotland, Johnson said his three-year term had left Britain with the economic strength to help people through the crisis. energy crisis. He signed with his typically colorful language.
“I’m like one of those booster rockets that served its purpose,” Johnson said. “I will now gently re-enter the atmosphere and crash invisibly into a remote, dark corner of the Pacific.”
Johnson, 58, became prime minister three years ago after his predecessor, Theresa May, failed to get Britain out of the European Union. Johnson went on to win an 80-seat majority in parliament with a promise to “get Brexit done”.
But he was forced out of office by a series of scandals that culminated in the resignation of dozens of cabinet secretaries and lower-level officials in early July. He alluded to this fall in his parting remarks, saying he was passing the baton to Truss in “what unexpectedly became a relay race”.
While many observers expect Johnson to attempt a political comeback, he offered his support for Truss and compared himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who relinquished power and returned to his farm to live in peace .
“Like Cincinnatus, I’m going back to my plow,” he said. “And I will offer this government only the strongest support.”
Johnson will officially step down shortly when he meets Elizabeth at Balmoral, his summer retreat in Aberdeenshire.
It is the first time in the Queen’s 70 year reign that the transfer of power takes place at Balmoral, rather than Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony was moved to Scotland to provide certainty on the timing as the 96-year-old Queen faced travel issues that forced palace officials to make decisions about her day-to-day trip.
Truss, 47, will take office a day after the 172,000 members of the Conservative Party elect her as leader of their party.
On Tuesday afternoon, she is due to deliver her first speech as leader of a nation of 67 million people who are worried about soaring energy bills and a looming winter of recession and social unrest. Those problems have worsened over the past two months as Johnson lacked the power to make major policy decisions after announcing his intention to step down.
Speaking to members of the Conservative party on Monday, Truss promised to “deliver” on the economy, the energy crisis and the overburdened healthcare system, although she gave few details on her policies. On Sunday, Truss promised to unveil his plans to tackle the cost of living crisis within a week.
Bronwen Maddox, director of international affairs think tank Chatham House, said Truss will have to say “a lot more” to reach a wider electorate.
“Everything, every road, comes down to cost of living at this point,” Maddox said. “And if she keeps her promises, to use her word on that, then you might see the mood turn a lot more positive.”
Many people in Britain are still learning about the person who will soon be their leader.
Unlike Johnson, who achieved media stardom long before becoming Prime Minister, Truss quietly rose through the Conservative ranks before being appointed Foreign Secretary, one of the highest Cabinet posts there are. barely a year.
Truss is under pressure to explain how she plans to help people and businesses struggling to pay energy bills which are set to rise next month to 3,500 pounds ($4,000) for the average household – triple from the cost of a year ago.
During the leadership campaign, she promised help for people struggling to pay their bills, but declined to say what form that support would take.
The price spiketrained by The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the aftershocks of COVID-19 and Brexit, propelled Inflation in the UK above 10% for the first time in four decades. The Bank of England predicts that it will reach 13.3% in October and that the United Kingdom will tip into recession by the end of the year.
Train drivers, port staff, garbage collectors, postal workers and lawyers have all staged strikes to demand pay rises keep pace with inflation, and millions more, from teachers to nurses, could leave in the next few months.
Truss, a low-tax, small-government conservative, says her priority is lowering taxes and reducing regulations to fuel economic growth. Critics say it will further fuel inflation while not solving the cost of living crisis. Uncertainty rattled currency markets, sending the pound tumbling to $1.15, its weakest performance against the dollar since the 1980s.
Truss’ first task will be to appoint a Cabinet to tackle the mountain of government challenges.
Kwasi Kwarteng, who was business secretary in Johnson’s government, is the favorite to be named to the key post of head of the Treasury. Like Truss, Kwarteng is a proponent of free trade in the mold of 1980s Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But the scale of the economic crisis may mean that he and Truss must override their small-state instincts and spend billions to help people pay their bills.
Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, Kwarteng said a Truss government would “take immediate action… to help families and businesses get through this winter and the next.” He didn’t provide any details either.
In theory, Truss has time to make her mark: she doesn’t have to call a national election until 2024. But opinion polls already give the main opposition Labor Party a consistent lead and more the economy deteriorates, the more the pressure will increase. .
Truss and his new cabinet also face multiple foreign policy crises, including the war in Ukraine and the frosty post-Brexit relationship with the European Union.
As Foreign Secretary, Truss was a strong supporter of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion, and as Prime Minister she will continue the UK’s civilian and military support to Kyiv. She said her first phone call with a world leader would be with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
She also pledged to raise UK defense spending from just over 2% to 3% of gross domestic product – another costly promise.
She is likely to have much colder conversations with EU leaders, who have been annoyed by Truss’ intransigent position as foreign secretary in trade rules talks for Northern Ireland, an issue not resolved Brexit which has deteriorated relations between London and Brussels. With the UK threatening to breach the legally binding divorce treaty and the EU taking legal action in return, the dispute could escalate into a trade war between the UK and the 27-nation bloc.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney expressed hope that once in power, Truss will adopt a more moderate approach.
“A lot of key decision makers are trying to reach out and let Liz Truss know that if she decides to change course to a more positive one trying to find a reasonable compromise with the EU, we can find a way forward on this issue,” he said.
Susie Blann contributed to this story.