Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart has explicitly said he could not serve in a government led by Boris Johnson as he branded a No Deal Brexit ‘dishonest’.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson had pledged to take the country out of the EU in October – with or without a deal.
Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart has explicitly said he could not serve in a government led by Boris Johnson as he branded a No Deal Brexit ‘dishonest’
However, speaking this morning, Mr Stewart told the BBC that he could not serve alongside Mr Johnson.
He said: ‘I could not serve in a government whose policy was to push this country into a no-deal Brexit.
‘I could not serve with Boris Johnson.’
Mr Stewart said that Mr Johnson had assured him two weeks ago that he would not pursue a No Deal exit from the EU.
Setting out his pitch to be leader just hours after Theresa May announced her departure, the former foreign secretary said it was time to ‘put Brexit to bed’
‘We had a conversation about 20, 25 minutes and I left the room reassured by him that he wouldn’t do this.
‘But, it now seems that he is coming out for a no-deal Brexit.’
Mr Stewart said there was no majority in the Commons for no deal, adding: ‘I think it would be a huge mistake. Damaging, unnecessary, and I think also dishonest.’
Mr Johnson is the early favourite to take over, but but he faces a mounting ‘Stop Boris’ campaign from MPs who oppose him.
At an economic conference in Switzerland, he yesterday ruled out any further delays beyond the end of October, when the latest extension is due to expire.
He said: ‘We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.’
But yesterday, Ms Rudd told the BBC that she would be ‘very concerned’ about a new Conservative leader who is ‘enthusiastic’ about such a scenario.
She said: ‘I would be very concerned about somebody who is too enthusiastic about no deal.
‘It is very important that whoever takes this on looks for a solution and tries to work to find where the majority of the House (of Commons) is.’
And Dominic Grieve yesterday threatened that he and other Tory MPs could help sink a Johnson-led government that pursued No Deal.
Mr Johnson said that he did ‘not want or think No Deal will be the outcome’, but believed that being ready to walk away from negotiations was the only way to secure compromises from Brussels.
Dominic Grieve yesterday threatened that he and other Tory MPs could help sink a Johnson-led government that pursued No Deal
‘The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a No Deal. To get things done you need to be prepared to walk away,’ he added. ‘There is a real incentive for both parties to find a solution otherwise there could be long-term bitterness.’
Mr Johnson claimed politicians had failed to explain the ‘positives’ of Brexit, adding: ‘The biggest threat to British prosperity is not Brexit, the biggest threat is Jeremy Corbyn. The job of our next leader in the UK, he or she, is to get out of the EU properly and put Brexit to bed.
‘And to make sure we have an exciting, dynamic, but also socially compassionate conservatism that can see off Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.’
The Tories plan to select their new leader by the end of July, allowing him or her just three months to negotiate changes to Mrs May’s Brexit deal before October 31.
An extra difficulty is that the EU may not have appointed a new European Commission by then.
Mr Johnson refused to set out more details on his plans, beyond saying: ‘A new leader will have the opportunity to do things differently and have the momentum of a new administration.
The Tories plan to select their new leader by the end of July, allowing him or her just three months to negotiate changes to Mrs May’s Brexit deal before October 31
‘I don’t wish to elaborate on what I’m going to do and how we are going to do it, but believe me you will hear possibly more about that than you necessarily want to in the next few days.’
Earlier, Mr Johnson, who resigned from Mrs May’s Cabinet last July, thanked her for her ‘stoical service’ to our country and the party.
Mr Johnson is the frontrunner among Tory members, but many MPs hold reservations about his suitability for the top job.
Mr Grieve told LBC: ‘I personally have serious doubts about Boris Johnson’s capacity to be Prime Minister. I’d have to consider my position very carefully because I would find it very difficult to accept his leadership.’
The former attorney general later told Sky News: ‘If the idea of No Deal on Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular option then people will have to face the fact that the party may not be in government on Halloween to deliver it. It is as serious as that.’ Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday tweeted: ‘That Boris Johnson as PM is a serious proposition is proof that the Tories have taken leave of their senses.
‘Nothing – apart from Brexit obviously – has done more to trash the UK’s global reputation in last three years than his risible tenure as foreign secretary.’
Mr Johnson has raised more than £130,000 for his leadership bid. In the last few days, he has been holding meetings with Tory MPs, trying to persuade them that he should be their next leader.
Andrew Pierce’s guide to the leadership: Page 10-11
Now Hunt throws hat in the ring
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt heavily hinted that he will join the race to replace Mrs May as Tory leader as he delivered a speech in his Surrey constituency
Senior Tories wasted no time in entering the race to replace Theresa May yesterday – with Jeremy Hunt and party shop steward Graham Brady leading a scramble for No 10.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also expected to announce his candidacy today, while former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab will reveal his intentions tomorrow.
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt heavily hinted that he will join the race to replace Mrs May as Tory leader as he delivered a speech in his Surrey constituency.
‘I’ll make the announcement on my own candidacy at the appropriate time,’ he told his local newspaper the Farnham Herald.
‘I think this is a day to remember Theresa May and her duty, her sense of public service, the fact that she has done an incredibly difficult job with enormous integrity, and I think that’s what people up and down the country will be thinking today.’
Sir Graham revealed his plan to succeed Mrs May as he met her in Downing Street to agree her timetable for departure. The influential backbencher last night stepped down as chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs and confirmed he was considering becoming a candidate.
A source said there was an awkward moment as Sir Graham revealed his intentions as he met with Mrs May, her chief-of-staff Gavin Barwell and Tory chairman Brandon Lewis.
In his role as 1922 chairman, Sir Graham was due to have a role in deciding the rules of the leadership contest before organising the ballots of Tory MPs. Last night he released a statement revealing he had resigned from the role so he could take soundings from colleagues on whether to launch a leadership bid. In the past few weeks, Sir Graham has acted as a middle man between Downing Street and Tory backbenchers. Some members of the 1922 executive committee, of which he is chairman, had threatened to change leadership rules to oust Mrs May if she did not agree to step down.
One minister last night accused him of ‘an abuse of his position’ by plotting to take over while holding responsibility for agreeing with Mrs May when she would quit.
As 1922 committee chairman, Sir Graham was in charge of counting the letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister that led to a leadership challenge in December.
In January, he put forward the so-called Brady amendment to the Brexit deal, which called for the controversial Irish backstop to be replaced by ‘alternative arrangements’.
Sir Graham served as shadow education minister and then shadow Europe minister, but quit in 2007 in protest at David Cameron’s stance against grammar schools.
The self-described ‘grammar school martyr’ joined the party as a 16-year-old to campaign in support of selective education. He has been 1922 committee chairman since 2010.
Mr Hancock is due to be interviewed about his plans on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, while Mr Raab is booked to appear on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show tomorrow.