Boris Johnson threatens to refuse to pay $71 billion Brexit divorce bill unless EU offers better terms

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The race to replace Theresa May begins this week.

Boris Johnson, the bookies’ favourite to replace Theresa May as British prime minister, has threatened to refuse to pay a 39 billion pounds ($71 billion) Brexit divorce bill to the European Union.

Key points:

  • The Conservative Party is expected to name its new leader in late July
  • Mr Johnson vowed to take Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline
  • Mrs May will serve as caretaker leader until a new prime minister is chosen

Mrs May resigned as Conservative Party leader on Friday after politicians, including fellow Conservatives like Mr Johnson, repeatedly voted down her deal with the EU.

She is serving as a caretaker leader until a new prime minister is chosen and moves into 10 Downing Street.

Mr Johnson told the Sunday Times that if he succeeded Mrs May, he would refuse to pay unless the EU offered a better withdrawal agreement than the one currently on the table.

As it stands, the UK will have to continue contributing to the EU budget, as if it was still part of the bloc, until next year. 

The UK will also be liable for outstanding commitments to projects that go beyond 2020.

Mr Johnson quit as the foreign secretary in Mrs May’s Cabinet last July over her approach to Brexit. 

The race to replace her as Tory leader — and in turn the head of the British Government — officially begins on Monday, local time.

Nominations close in the afternoon, and the party expects to name its new leader in late July.

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Theresa May breaks down after announcing her resignation as Prime Minister. (Image: Reuters)ABC NEWS

Mr Johnson, 54, who also served as London’s mayor, has emerged as the early front-runner in a crowded field.

Theresa May’s legacy will be her Brexit failure

Theresa May's legacy will be her Brexit failure

As she pointed out in her gracious resignation speech, she was Britain’s second female Prime Minister, but unlike the Iron Lady, Mrs May’s legacy will be far more understated, writes Samantha Hawley.

A hard-line Brexit advocate, he vows to take Britain out of the EU by the deadline that was pushed back to October 31 from March 29even if there is no deal with the EU on withdrawal terms in place.

In the interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Johnson described himself as the only contender who could triumph over the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

He and other Conservatives vying to lead the party insist they can get better terms from EU leaders in Brussels than the ones Mrs May agreed to and was unable to push through Parliament.

But EU officials have said they are not willing to change the terms of the deal reached with Mrs May.

Michael Gove purses his lips as he looks straight ahead while walking on London street. He wears a suit.

One of Mr Johnson’s main rivals for the post, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, continued to be sidetracked on the weekend by questions about his acknowledged cocaine use when he was a youthful journalist.

He told the BBC on Sunday that he was “fortunate” not to have gone to prison.

He said he was “very, very aware” of the damage drugs could cause.