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what’s next for Britain after PM Boris Johnson hospitalized in intensive care

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved into intensive care, a day after being hospitalized with coronavirus. So, with the PM out of action, how will the British government function?

Temporary measures

Johnson was admitted to hospital for testing on Sunday, 10 days after testing positive for Covid-19. The PM was moved into intensive care on Monday night, after his condition “worsened,” his office said.

The prime minister had been working from isolation at home prior to his hospitalization, and Downing Street said on Monday that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would “deputise” for Johnson “where necessary” for the duration of his hospital stay.

Raab has already assumed some of Johnson’s duties. The foreign secretary chaired a Monday morning meeting of the government’s Cobra committee, and updated the nation that afternoon. 

No clear line of succession

Unlike the US, which sets out a 17-person line of succession should the president die or become otherwise incapacitated, the UK lacks a formal succession order. If Johnson’s condition worsens to the point of incapacitation or death, it falls on Britain’s reigning monarch to appoint a new leader at the request of the cabinet.

Until the queen formally appoints the successor, she would possess the power to issue emergency laws and regulations. The cabinet would nominate an acting PM to be confirmed by the queen, and would likely do so without a protracted debate. However, it’s still unclear in this case whether Raab would be the chosen candidate.

The system has been put to the test before, when then-Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812. On the recommendation of the cabinet, he was replaced by Lord Liverpool. However, the government then lost votes in parliament — and Liverpool was not confirmed as the new PM until about a month later.