Theresa May Vows to Fight Any Boris Johnson Effort to Topple Her

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May said she’ll fight any leadership challenge from her former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and that she intends to lead her Conservative Party into the next general election.

Johnson quit Cabinet last month in protest over May’s Brexit vision, and is widely touted as her potential successor due to his popularity among grassroots Conservative members. The Conservative Party conference in October is viewed as a possible time for a Johnson leadership bid.

Asked Tuesday about a potential challenge from Johnson, May told reporters: “I have said before that I am in this for the long term. I am in this for delivering for the British people, and that’s what I am focused on.”

Speculation of a leadership challenge has dogged May since lost her majority in a disastrous snap election last year. That left her government reliant on the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to win votes in Parliament -- as well as at the mercy of rebels on both extremes of her party.

But May laughed off the suggestion that she risks being booed at the party conference over her plan to retain access to the European Union’s single market for goods after Brexit. The most ardent euroskeptics in her party argue that goes against the spirit of the 2016 referendum vote, which they say called for a complete split from the bloc.

“I will be going to party conference with important messages, as other ministers will have, about what we as a government are doing not just in relation to the Brexit issue and delivering a good deal for the United Kingdom, but actually what we’re doing on the domestic agenda that matters to so many members of the public,’’ May said.

She went on to cite her government’s programs to build more homes, boost technical education and plow more funding into the National Health Service.

May was talking to reporters during a flight to Cape Town at the start of a five-day visit to three African nations. On Tuesday, she announced an agreement to carry over the EU’s existing trading arrangements with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique after Brexit. As these principally offer African countries easier access to European markets, it was an easy deal to reach.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.