BORIS Johnson has confirmed he will stand to succeed Theresa May in the Tory leadership contest.

The former foreign secretary resigned over the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal because he believed it kept the UK too closely aligned with the EU, but then went on to vote for it in the Commons.

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He was asked at a business event yesterday if he would be a candidate in the contest and replied: “Of course I’m going to go for it.”

Following a meeting with senior Tory backbenchers, May yesterday finally agreed to set a date for her departure after a fourth attempt to get her withdrawal agreement through the Commons early next month.

The PM’s divorce deal has already suffered three heavy defeats by MPs.

Speaking in Manchester, Johnson acknowledged there was “no vacancy” in Downing Street.

Asked whether he wanted to be Conservative leader, Johnson said: “I’m going to go for it. Of course I’m going to go for it. I don’t think that is any particular secret to anybody. But you know there is no vacancy at present.”

He added: “I do think there’s been a real lack of grip and dynamism in the way we approached these talks [with the EU] ... We’ve failed over the last three years to put forward a convincing narrative about how we can make sense of Brexit and how to exploit the opportunities of Brexit.”

Several senior Conservatives have already put themselves forward in the race to succeed May.

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She has said she will step down after her Withdrawal Agreement Bill is passed in the Commons, but many Tory backbenchers want her to go regardless, believing her premiership has become toxic, and are demanding a date for her departure. They point to the party’s dire performance in the local elections in England and opinion polls suggesting it may come fifth in next week’s European elections, with Leave voters flocking to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – who support leaving the EU without a deal.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey have announced they will run in the contrest to replace May, while Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom has said she is “considering” doing so.

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Other widely touted possible contenders include former and current members of the Cabinet: Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss.

Scottish Tories are anxious about Johnson becoming UK party leader, believing his brand of Conservativism has little appeal to Scots.

In a statement after a 90-minute meeting with May in the Commons, the chair of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, said: “The Prime Minister is determined to secure our departure from the European Union and is devoting her efforts to securing the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week commencing June 3, 2019 and the passage of that bill and the consequent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union by the summer.

“We have agreed that she and I will meet following the second reading of the bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”

Downing Street has hinted May sees the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill as make or break for her premiership and the deal she has negotiated.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “The Tories have given up governing the country, they’ve given up campaigning in the European elections and they’ve given up even pretending to support their leader.

“The only thing we’ve learned from today’s latest fudge from the 1922 Committee is that Theresa May is so incompetent that she can’t even resign properly.”

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He added: “Throughout the entire Brexit process, Scotland’s people and parliament have been completely ignored by Westminster – while the Tories and Labour focus only on their own internal battles.

“While Theresa May refuses to recognise the scale of the Brexit chaos and mess she has created, Boris Johnson – one of the architects of the murky Vote Leave campaign – is already pushing her out the door by declaring that he will run for Tory leader.”