Boris Johnson, who has pledged to deliver Brexit on October 31, edged closer to power on Thursday when he won by far the most support from Conservative Party lawmakers in the first round of the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May.
Johnson got 114 votes, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in second place on 43 votes and Environment Minister Michael Gove third with 37 votes.
Three candidates -- Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper -- were eliminated after they failed to receive the required minimum of 17 votes.
The former foreign secretary, 54, says he would get Britain out of the EU "deal or no deal" when the October 31 deadline set by EU leaders comes around.
But he has also said a no-deal Brexit would be "a last resort, not something that anybody desires".
He has threatened to withhold the country's Brexit bill if the EU does not offer improved withdrawal terms, and to scrap a controversial provision for the Irish border contained in the current divorce deal -- both of which would be unacceptable to Brussels.
A figurehead in the 2016 Brexit campaign, he was May's foreign secretary until he resigned over her Brexit strategy.
Charismatic and popular with grassroots Conservatives, he is seen as the favourite in the race, scooping up a growing number of pledges of support from cabinet members and MPs.
Johnson picked up 114 votes in the first round of voting by Conservative MPs in the leadership race on Thursday.
The Brexit-backing former foreign minister picked up 114 of the 313 votes cast in a secret ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers in the lower House of Commons.