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Buckingham Palace declines to comment on whether the Queen has spoken with Johnson

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, on July 6.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, on July 6. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure from his own Conservative party to resign. Under the UK political system, between elections, only Conservative members of Parliament have the power to remove a sitting Conservative prime minister.

Here’s how things could play out in the next hours or days:   

If Boris Johnson refuses to quit, can he be pushed out by a vote of no confidence from Conservative party lawmakers?

As party rules stand right now, no. He survived a confidence vote on June 6, which should mean he cannot face another confidence vote for a year. But lawmakers who want to get rid of him have raised the possibility of changing the rules.

Even if they don’t go through the formal process of voting no confidence in Johnson, he may be doomed. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote against her leadership in December 2018 — by a bigger margin than Johnson got in June –and was still out of office by the following summer. 

Does a Johnson resignation trigger a general election?

No. It starts the Conservative Party process for choosing a new leader of the party. UK Prime Ministers are not directly elected by the people; Johnson is prime minister because he is the head of the largest party in the House of Commons. The Conservatives will still be the largest party even if Johnson quits or is dumped, so the new head of the party will become prime minister. 

How is the new Conservative Party leader chosen? 

Leadership candidates need the support of at least eight lawmakers. If there are more than two candidates, Conservative party lawmakers hold round after round of votes to whittle the number of leadership candidates down to two. Then Conservative party members nationwide vote (by mail!) between the two finalists. The winner becomes leader of the party – and prime minister.

Who is prime minister while all this happens? 

Boris Johnson. He’ll remain in office as caretaker prime minister until his replacement is chosen.

Then he submits his resignation to the Queen, in person. The Palace will announce officially that Queen Elizabeth II has accepted Johnson’s resignation, and will say who she has invited to become prime minister to replace him. (This is a formality; she will choose the leader of the Conservative Party.)

Does the new prime minister have to call a general election?

No. The United Kingdom isn’t scheduled to have another general election until December 2024. The new prime minister could choose to ask Parliament to vote for an early election, but isn’t required to do so.

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