With Oct. 31 Brexit pledge, Boris Johnson bids for UK leadership

LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson kicked off his campaign to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday with a commitment to lead Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31, warning his divided Conservative Party “delay means defeat”.

Johnson, 54, favorite for the top job nearly three years since he led the referendum campaign to leave the EU, praised the strength of the British economy, promised to deliver Brexit by the end of October and tackle despair across the country.

To a packed room where some supportive lawmakers were forced to stand, Johnson drew on his past as a former London mayor to try to persuade Conservatives that only he could take the party to election victory, explaining away some of his well-documented gaffes as his desire to “speak as directly as I can”.

“After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31,” he said as a heckler repeatedly yelled “Bollocks to Boris” from outside the Royal Academy of Engineering, just off The Mall in central London.

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