Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Step Down, Report Says

Johnson will make a statement to the nation today, a spokesperson for his office says

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) talks with local business leaders after a Cabinet meeting at a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, central England, in May.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) talks with local business leaders after a Cabinet meeting at a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, central England, in May.Credit: OLI SCARFF - AFP

British media say Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to resign, ending an unprecedented political crisis that has paralyzed Britain’s government.

Johnson will make a statement to the nation on Thursday, a spokesperson for his Number 10 Downing Street office said.

Johnson had rebuffed calls by his Cabinet to step down in the wake of ethics scandals. He gave in after more than 40 ministers quit his government and told him to go.

It was not immediately clear Thursday whether Johnson would stay in office while the Conservative Party chooses a new leader, who will replace him as prime minister.

Earlier on Thursday, British Treasury chief Nadhim Zahawi called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign, just 36 hours after Johnson put him in the job, while another newly appointed Cabinet minister quit her post.

Zahawi said Johnson knew “the right thing to do” was to “go now.”

Zahawi was appointed late Tuesday to replace Rishi Sunak, who resigned saying he could no longer support Johnson after a series of ethics scandals.

Education Secretary Michelle Donelan, who was also appointed on Tuesday following the resignation of her predecessor, announced her resignation Thursday morning.

Johnson has rejected clamors for his resignation, digging in his heels even as dozens of officials quit and previously loyal allies urge him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership.

A group of Johnson’s most trusted Cabinet ministers visited him at his office in Downing Street Wednesday, telling him to stand down after losing the trust of his party. But Johnson instead opted to fight for his political career and fired one of the Cabinet officials, Michael Gove, British media reported.

It is rare for a prime minister to cling on to office in the face of this much pressure from his Cabinet colleagues. The Guardian’s frontpage on Thursday called him “Desperate, deluded.”

As of early Thursday, five Cabinet ministers had quit, including on Thursday Donelan and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis who told Johnson in his resignation letter that "we are ... past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now.”

Some 40 junior government officials have also left amid a furor over Johnson's handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official that was the latest in a long line of issues that have made Conservative lawmakers uncomfortable.

“He’s breached the trust that was put in him. He needs to recognize that he no longer has the moral authority to lead. And for him, it’s over,” Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told The Associated Press.

Johnson cannot continue because his government has not even got ministers to attend to regular Parliament business after so many resigned, Blackford added.

Johnson's future remains extremely uncertain. So far, most Cabinet officials have remained in their positions but a mass walkout by the Cabinet could force his hand if that leaves him unable to run a functioning government.

If Johnson still refuses to resign, the Conservatives could oust him by potentially triggering a new no-confidence vote.

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