Contenders to replace Theresa May as Conservative leader have clashed over delivering Brexit during a TV debate.
The MPs argued over whether a new deal could be renegotiated with the EU, and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson came under fire for not taking part in the Channel 4 debate but defended his stance, suggesting it would “be slightly cacophonous”.
His leadership bid has been backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who dropped out of the race on Friday.
Some of the sharpest exchanges came over whether Parliament should be shut down – prorogued – in order to push through a no-deal Brexit by 31 October – something four of the five candidates argued against.
The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but EU leaders agreed to delay the date to October after MPs repeatedly rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said proroguing Parliament was a “deeply disturbing” option and Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned “you don’t deliver democracy by trashing our democracy”.
However ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab refused to rule it out, saying “every time one of these candidates take an option away… we weaken our chances of getting the best deal.”
No stand-out winner and a debate that won’t trouble the absent front-runner Boris Johnson.
His team thought there was nothing to be gained from pitching up for this blue-on-blue skirmish which was mostly good natured but repeatedly raised questions the candidates struggled to answer.
How can the next prime minister renegotiate a deal with the EU? How can it be done by October? How could the UK leave without a deal if MPs refuse?
At one end of the debate, Dominic Raab was rounded on for saying he would be prepared to try and suspend parliament if it was the only way to get the UK out without a deal at the end of October.
In the opposite corner, Rory Stewart was the only one who said a renegotiation with the EU in the next four months was a fantasy promise.
At some point this week one of the five will break out and become the challenger to Boris Johnson for the ballot of Tory members.