UK prime minister gets a Brexit boost, but a big rival is waiting in the wings

An influential and outspoken lawmaker, Johnson resigned from his foreign secretary post in July, saying that May’s Brexit strategy would lead the U.K. to have “the status of a colony.”

Since then, he has repeatedly criticized May’s Brexit plan, that seeks close regulatory alignment with the European Union after Brexit, calling it “deranged” earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Johnson told party delegates that May’s Chequers plan was “politically humiliating” and a “constitutional outrage.” Staying aligned with the EU was “dangerous and unstable politically and economically,” he added, and was not what voters wanted.

He received a large applause when he said the government should “chuck Chequers.” However, he also called on delegates to back May.

Despite being out of the Cabinet, Johnson has remained one of the main figureheads calling for a “hard” Brexit and there is widespread speculation he’s waiting in the wings to become the next Conservative leader and prime minister.

Johnson refused to rule out whether he would launch a leadership bid when asked on the subject last week. However, he has laid the groundwork for a contest, setting out his alternative plans for Brexit in a 4,500-word essay published last week in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, in which he proposed a “Super Canada” free trade deal. Put simply, he advocated an enhanced free trade deal with the EU, like Canada has, with zero tariffs on goods and services.

Several key figures in the party have rebuffed his Brexit plan, however, and there are those that don’t want Johnson to steal the limelight.

“Inevitably, there’s always going to be people looking for the next generation, the next leader, and I think most of us are very, very clear that there’s not going to be a leadership contest any time soon,” pro-EU, Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan told CNBC on Tuesday. “It would be very damaging for the party,” she said.

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