Matt Hancock, the health minister to outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, pulled out from the race to replace her as the Conservative Party's leader on Friday, narrowing the field down to six candidates.
The big picture: Boris Johnson, a brash Brexiteer who has vowed to take the U.K. out of the EU without a deal if necessary, is easily in control of the race — and his frontrunner status is likely to cause other candidates to drop out over the coming days.
The state of play: To take part in the race, candidates needed backing from at least eight other Conservative MPs, who are now voting in a series of ballots to whittle the field down to two. The first ballot required 5% support (16 MPs) to move forward, while subsequent votes will require 10% support (32 MPs).
- The Conservatives' 1922 Committee announced earlier this week the results of the first round of voting by the party's members of Parliament in the race to replace May, winnowing the field from 10 candidates to seven.
- The candidates represent a wide spectrum of opinion on Brexit, which will serve as the defining issue in a contest that will decide who will attempt to reach a deal — or not — for the U.K. to leave the EU.
The results from the first ballot:
- Boris Johnson: 114
- Jeremy Hunt: 43
- Michael Gove: 37
- Dominic Raab: 27
- Sajid Javid: 23
- Matt Hancock: 20
- Rory Stewart: 19
- Andrea Leadsom: 11
- Mark Harper: 10
- Esther McVey: 9
Who's still in:
- Michael Gove: Currently serving as May's environment secretary, Gove previously ran for the Conservative leadership back in 2015. He has said he'd consider a no-deal Brexit if necessary, but is open to further delaying the deadline if progress on a deal is being made. While he's in the top-tier of candidates, he's currently facing press scrutiny over his admission of past cocaine use.
- Jeremy Hunt: He serves as May's foreign secretary and is widely considered the favorite as a moderate alternative to Boris Johnson. He believes he can renegotiate May's Brexit deal with the EU to stave off a no-deal Brexit.
- Sajid Javid: Currently serving as May's home secretary, Javid has promised that he'll push for Brexit as scheduled on October 31 — even without a deal. He's focused more on domestic issues than other candidates, promising to ease some of the U.K.'s immigration targets.
- Boris Johnson: He is the clear frontrunner in the race, having previously served as May's foreign secretary and the mayor of London. Known as a leading voice for the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, Johnson has promised he'd leave with or without a deal on Oct. 31 — but his bombastic, gaffe-ridden nature can be equally appealing and off-putting to certain sectors of the electorate.
- Dominic Raab: He previously served as May's Brexit secretary and is viewed as arch-Brexiteers' best — however small — hope. He's promised to deliver a no-deal Brexit if needed and has proposed proroguing, or essentially discontinuing, a session of Parliament to circumvent lawmakers and get it done.
- Rory Stewart: He serves as May's international development secretary and has become the social media darling of the race, popping up in random locations to debate with ordinary citizens. While a huge longshot, he's gained attention for his colorful life story — having walked thousands of miles across Afghanistan and Pakistan — and his proposal to convene a citizens' assembly to debate Brexit.
What's next: The series of ballots to determine the final two will take place over the next two weeks — before the final leadership campaign kicks off in earnest on June 22. Registered Conservative Party members will then choose their favorite of the final two via a mail-in ballot, and the winner will be announced during the week of July 22.
Go deeper: Everything you need to know about Brexit