British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she was “irritated” by speculation about a leadership contest as she slammed former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, seen as her most likely challenger.
The centre-right Conservative Party’s leader said she was focused on securing a Brexit deal rather than her own future, in a BBC television interview marking the six-month countdown to Britain’s departure from the European Union.
May blasted Johnson for using “completely inappropriate” language when he described her Brexit blueprint as putting Britain in a “suicide vest”.
Asked about her plans to stay in the job, she said: “I get a little bit irritated but this debate is not about my future — this debate is about the future of the people of the UK and the future of the United Kingdom.
“That’s what I’m focused on and that’s what we should all be focused on.”
The leader added it was important to ensure “we get that good deal from the European Union which is good for people in the UK, wherever they live in the UK”.
Johnson, who quit the Cabinet over May’s proposals to keep Britain close to the EU on trade, is the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed May, ahead of interior minister Sajid Javid, eurosceptic backbench leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, environment minister Michael Gove and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
May’s Conservative minority government contains a sizeable bloc of hardcore Brexiteers headed by Rees-Mogg and would likely need the support of the left-wing main opposition Labour Party, or a chunk of their MPs, to get her Brexit proposals through Parliament.