On 19 August 2019, Johnson wrote a letter to the EU and asked for the removal of the "backstop" accord, which had previously been agreed and signed by Theresa May during her premiership. The proposal was rejected by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. On 26 August 2019, Johnson said that Britain would not pay £39 billion for the withdrawal agreement were the UK to leave without a deal on 31 October. The European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said there would be no further negotiation on the trade deal unless the UK agreed to pay the entire sum.
A poll of party members published on 13 June showed Johnson to be the clear front-runner. He received 114 votes in the ballot, the first of five, that took place that day. Johnson was criticised by his competitor Jeremy Hunt for failing to appear alongside him and the other candidates in a debate on 16 June. During the debate, which was broadcast by Channel 4, Hunt asked: "If his team won't allow him out with five fairly friendly colleagues, how is he going to deal with 27 European countries?" That day, the second ballot took place, and Johnson gained the backing of 12 more MPs, taking his number of votes to 126. He achieved 143 votes in the third ballot and 157 in the fourth ballot. In the last ballot of MPs on 20 June he reached 160 votes and was named one of the final two candidates, alongside Hunt.More Info
Five days after May's resignation on 7 June, Johnson formally launched his campaign, saying, "After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on 31 October. We must do better than the current Withdrawal Agreement that has been rejected three times by Parliament—and let me clear that I am not aiming for a no-deal outcome. I don't think that we will end up with any such thing. But it is only responsible to prepare vigorously and seriously for no deal. Indeed, it is astonishing that anyone could suggest dispensing with that vital tool of negotiation." On the campaign trail, Johnson warned of "catastrophic consequences for voter trust in politics" if the government pushed the EU for further delays. He advocated removing the backstop from any Brexit deal and replacing it with alternative arrangements. On 25 and 26 August, he announced plans to retain £7 or £9 billion of the £39 billion divorce payment the UK is due to transfer to the EU upon withdrawal.More Info
Johnson appointed his Cabinet on 24 July 2019, describing it as a "Cabinet for modern Britain", with The Guardian branding it "an ethnically diverse but ideologically homogeneous statement of intent". While forming his government, Johnson dismissed 11 senior ministers and accepted the resignation of six others, a purge described by Johnson's ally Nigel Evans as "not so much a reshuffle as a summer's day massacre". The mass dismissal was the most extensive Cabinet reorganisation without a change in ruling party in postwar British political history, exceeding the seven Cabinet ministers dismissed in the "Night of the Long Knives" of 1962, and was dubbed the "Night of the Blond Knives" by The Sun.More Info
On 27 March, it was announced that Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19. On 5 April, with his symptoms persisting, he was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London for tests. The next day, his condition having worsened, he was moved to the hospital's intensive care unit; Dominic Raab was appointed to deputise for him. Johnson left intensive care on 9 April, and left hospital three days later to recuperate at Chequers. After a fortnight at Chequers, he returned to Downing Street on the evening of 26 April and was said to be chairing a government coronavirus "war cabinet" meeting.More Info
By resigning as Foreign Secretary, Johnson returned to the role of a backbench MP. In July, Johnson delivered a resignation speech, stating that ministers were "saying one thing to the EU about what we are really doing, and pretending another to the electorate". In it, he said that "it is not too late to save Brexit. We have time in these negotiations. We have changed tack once and we can change once again". Buzzfeed reported that Johnson had been in contact with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's former chief adviser. In interviews, Bannon had praised Johnson and said that he should challenge Theresa May for the party leadership. In January 2019, Johnson came under criticism for remarks he had made during the 2016 Leave campaign regarding the prospect of Turkish accession to the European Union; he denied making such remarks. In March 2019, Johnson said that expenditure on investigating historic allegations of child abuse, instead of more police on the streets, was money "spaffed up the wall". This was strongly criticised by a victim, anti-abuse organisations, a police chief and Shadow police minister Louise Haigh.More Info
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