London (CNN)Boris Johnson, former London mayor and ardent critic of Theresa May's Brexit strategy, has thrown his hat into the ring to replace the British Prime Minister, announcing he will run for leadership of the Conservative Party when she steps down.
Boris Johnson wants to replace Theresa May as UK Prime Minister
"Of course I'm going to go for it," he told a BBC news anchor at a business conference in Manchester, when asked if he would be a candidate in a future Conservative leadership election.
The winner of that contest will automatically become Prime Minister, taking center stage in the chaotic Brexit process that has plunged Britain into one of its worst postwar political crises.
A senior figure in the Conservative Party, Graham Brady, said May had agreed she would set a "timetable for the election of a new leader" after her Brexit deal is put to lawmakers for a fourth and final time in early June. The deeply unpopular deal has already been soundly rejected three times by Parliament.
Johnson, a former Mayor of London, has long held leadership ambitions. He has been an arch critic of May's Brexit approach -- although he ultimately voted in favor of her plan on the third occasion it was placed before MPs.
He is a favorite among grassroots Conservative members but has faced opposition in the past from a significant number of the party's lawmakers.
Widely expected to run for the Conservative leadership in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, Johnson dramatically changed course after his former pro-Brexit ally Michael Gove announced his candidacy.
May eventually won that contest and appointed Johnson as her Foreign Secretary, but he resigned in July 2018, writing in his resignation letter that the Brexit "dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt."
He has instead supported leaving the EU without a deal, a scenario economists have warned would have a severe financial impact.
Johnson has been a prominent figure in British politics for well over a decade, earning praise from some corners for his relaxed and bumbling persona, and criticism from others for a litany of gaffes, controversies and racially divisive comments.
He has called Africans "piccaninnies" and Papua New Guineans "cannibals," and once referred to Hillary Clinton as a "sadistic nurse in a mental hospital." Johnson also wrote last year that Muslim women wearing burqas resemble "letter boxes."
First elected as an MP in 2001, Johnson will face stiff opposition in what is anticipated to be a crowded field of candidates. The prize will be the unenviable task of attempting to bring the complex Brexit process to a conclusion.
Britain is currently scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31, having twice delayed its departure.