Frontrunner Boris Johnson and second-favourite Rory Stewart
The International Development Secretary’s popularity rocketed after the debate in which his rivals all claimed they wold renogatiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement if they became Prime Minister. Bookie William Hill has put him at 10/1 – ahead of all the other candidates who are challenging Boris Johnson, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (14/1) and Environment Secretary Michael Gove (20/1). Mr Stewart this morning said he now has the backing of 33 MPs.
They perfectly know they are talking about unicorns
The surge in support for Mr Stewart comes as rivals who claimed they could get a better deal from the EU were accused of “lying” and “talking about unicorns” by European law expert Jean-Claude Piris.
Mr Piris, the director-general of the EU Council’s legal services department until 2010, spoke out after the first televised debate of the campaign when most candidates talked about changing the unpopular deal thrashed out by Mrs May and her Brussels counterparts.
The former UN diplomat said it might be possible to revisit the political declaration but not the unpopular withdrawal agreement which was rejected by Parliament three times and eventually led to Mrs May’s downfall as Tory leader.
Tory leadership contest
Referring to the challengers vying to replace her at Number 10, Mr Piris said: “Most lie to their peculiar electorate because they think that it is necessary to be elected.
“They perfectly know they are talking about unicorns. The political declaration might be changed according to any new British wish, but not the withdrawal agreement itself.”
The five candidates who took part in last night’s debate on Channel 4 agreed the next Prime Minister had to take Britain out of the EU but there were sharp differences as to how that could be achieved.
All of the candidates, except Mr Stewart, said they would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal.
It comes as Boris Johnson came under fire from rivals for refusing to attend tonight’s hustings.
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12.46pm update: Gove says Boris would make good PM – “But I’d be better!”
Mr Gove told political journalists there were no Tory leadership candidates who understood the politics of Ireland better than him and insisted he would look for new ways of avoiding the backstop.
The Environment Secretary said he had won increased support over the weekend and added he felt pre-eminently qualified to run the country from day now.
Mr Gove sais he thinks his fierce rival Boris Johnson would be a good prime minister but that he would be a better one.
When asked if he had any regrets about how Brexit has unfolded and the part he played in it he said triggering Article 50 without a clear plan had been a mistake.
He claimed he had argued the UK should not trigger Article 50 prematurely throughout the campaign in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum.
And he said he urged Theresa May to adopt a different view of Brexit but she disagreed with him.
Mr Gove pointed out all the leadership candidates who resigned over Mrs May’s unpopular Brexit deal ended up voting for it on 29 March when Parliament voted on the agreement of the third time.
12.28pm update: Raab insists he can be trusted in Brexit talks
Dominic Raab started his hustings slot by describing the event as an “essential gauntlet” in a dig at rival Boris Johnson, who refused to appear.
Mr Raab defended himself from criticism that he could not be trusted again in Brexit negotiations.
The former Brexit Secretary said: “All the people in Brussels are briefing against me because I have said the things to them no one else dared to do.”
11.59am update: Hunt warns risks to democracy “greater than no deal Brexit”.
Jeremy Hunt said the “democratic risks” of failing to leave the European Union would be “greater than no deal”.
Tthe Tory leadership hopeful told the press gallery hustings: “If I was given a binary choice between no Brexit and no deal, and the only way to leave the EU was through a no deal Brexit, then I would take that choice because I think the democratic risks of no Brexit ultimately are far greater than the economic risks of no deal.”
He said he did not regret previously likening the EU to the USSR in a speech at the Tory Party conference last year, saying: “I think it showed I’m prepared to say things to friends they might not like and able to continue a relationship even saying those uncomfortable things.”
Asked about a critical tweet from Donald Trump about London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s handling of violence in London, Mr Hunt said the US president “has his own style” but that he “would not use those words myself”.
11.40am update: Sajid Javid takes questions at Tory hustings
Sajid Javid is now taking questions at the hustings.
He said education was the biggest thing for him and that was not unusual within Asian families. He would focus on schools and further education if he became prime minister.
The Home Secretary said his vision had been informed by his upbringing and experiences and wants a society where people can succeed if they work hard.
He said: “We need a multi-billion pound investment programme, as we have for the NHS.”
Mr Javid said he was “extremely confident” of gaining the minimum 33 votes he needs to get through the next round of voting on Tuesday.
He said: “I think there is a growing feeling in the party that when we get to the final two we should have a robust debate between two credible change candidates.
“If we don’t get change, people will vote for change in the form of Jeremy Corbyn.”
Rory Stewart has taken questions from Westminster journalists
11.15: Stewart takes questions at leadership hustings
Rory Stewart is taking questions at the press gallery hustings in Westminster.
He said he thought he could unlock some more Tory colleagues to get the Brexit withdrawal agreement though the Commons.
Mr Stewart says he voted remain in 2016 but is now working for a pragmatic Brexit.
He insisted he did not want a second referendum and said he would have failed if there is one.
The International Development Secretary said there were easier ways of stopping a no deal Brexit than voting with Labour in a no confidence motion and said he would not commit to bringing down a Tory government.
He told lobby correspondents he had 33 backers — “if the MPs do what they say”.
Mr Stewart said as a former professional diplomat he knew how to make his points forcefully – but in private.
11.05am update: Hunt takes fresh swipe at Johnson
Ahead of a series of hustings in front of political journalists – at which all remaining candidates except Boris Johnson will appear – Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “Looking forward to it. Hopefully someone will summon up some Churchillian courage and come along too.”
The hustings are on the record but are not being filmed because of Commons regulations.
10.23am update: Graham Brady urges next prime minister to seek backstop alternative
Alternatives to the Brexit backstop arrangement will not completely “solve” the Irish border issue, but should still be a priority for the new prime minister, according to Sir Graham Brady.
The influential former chairman of the 1922 Committee, whose amendment calling for alternative arrangements was backed by the Commons in January, suggested Theresa May had not tried hard enough to secure changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
Sir Graham said the Government had been “too pliant” in accepting the European Union’s argument that the backstop was the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Writing in a foreword to a report by the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, Sir Graham said Mrs May’s government had also been “too slow” in looking at technology to help mitigate the effects of checks on the border.
He said: “The election of a new leader now presents an opportunity to return to the negotiations and secure an agreement that is acceptable to both the House of Commons and the EU.”
The new prime minister should recognise that the backstop “is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, rather than its guarantor”.
“Secondly, they must at once ensure work on alternative arrangements, including the technical solutions, is given (long overdue) priority.”
9.44am update: Luxembourg repeats EU warning over withdrawal agreement
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has warned the EU withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation.
He said: “It would be wrong to think that the next British prime minister will be able to negotiate a new Brexit agreement as the main elements of such an agreement have already been found.
“Whatever the name of the next Prime Minister, the agreement is there. It is to take or leave.
“Maybe some details can be reviewed, but the big issues – including the backstop and the rights of citizens – have already been decided.
“Those who say they can renegotiate this deal are wrong.”
9.04am update: Gauke mocks Johnson’s financial policies
Justice Secretary David Gauke mocked Mr Johnson’s fiscal policies in response to his pledge to boost broadband infrastructure.
Mr Gauke, who backs Rory Stewart in the Tory leadership contest, said: “I’m the last person to want to curtail the leadership race.
“But every Telegraph column by Boris Johnson increases borrowing by £ billions.”
In a veiled reference to reports suggesting that Mr Hancock could have his sights on 11 Downing Street under a Johnson premiership, Mr Gauke added: “If Boris wins, good luck to whoever becomes his Chancellor.
“It would be a noble act of self-sacrifice to accept the job. Who’d do it?”
8.43am update: Gove disappointed by Hancock snub
Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove said he was disappointed that Matt Hancock had decided to support front-runner Boris Johnson.
Mr Gove claimed the Health Secretary had been “alternating” between backing him or Mr Johnson over the weekend.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He is a friend of mine and I know that over the course of the weekend he had a very tough decision to make.
“Without going into private conversations, I know that he was alternating between supporting Boris and supporting me.
“He felt that we were the two strongest candidates in the race.”
Michael Gove said he was disappointed Matt Hancock was backing Boris Johnson
8am update: Hancock backer switches support to Stewart
East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton, who had previously backed Matt Hancock, said he would now support Rory Stewart in the Tory leadership contest.
He said: “With Matt out, I’m still looking for the same things: energy, intelligence and enthusiasm with a clear vision for delivering Brexit and for the country beyond it.
“Someone who really gets the Union, with ideas to strengthen and secure it.”
Mr Stewart secured just 19 votes in the first round of the contest and needs 33 votes in tomorrow’s second ballot of Tory MPs to stay in the leadership race.
Matt Hancock is backing Boris
7.30am update: Hancock backs Johnson in leadership race
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has thrown his weight behind Boris Johnson after pulling out of the Tory leadership contest last week.
Mr Hancock ruled out a no-deal Brexit during his campaign in direct opposition to Mr Johnson’s hardline stance but said he had now decided the former foreign secretary was the best candidate to re-unite the fractured Conservative Party.
His endorsement came after the clear frontrunner was criticised for failing to appear in the first of the televised leadership debates staged by Channel 4 last night.