Jeremy Hunt swipes at Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson’s Brexit stance

Support us and go ad-free

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has taken a swipe at Boris Johnson’s Brexit stance, insisting his rival has an unclear policy and suggesting he is not trusted in Brussels.

The Foreign Secretary said he was “not entirely sure” what the front-runner in the race to become the next prime minister believes when it comes to when Britain will leave the EU.

In a televised debate on Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson said the October 31 deadline for Brexit must be met, warning that otherwise there would be a “catastrophic loss of confidence in politics”.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But Mr Hunt accused the former foreign secretary of lacking clarity on whether he guaranteed delivering Brexit by the end of October.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I am not entirely sure what he believes on this, having listened to him last night.

“You have to think these things through because prime ministers have to make these judgments.”

Mr Hunt, who came second in the second Tory leadership ballot on Tuesday, also said he was best placed to cut a deal with Brussels on Brexit, saying: “We need a negotiator.”

He said a negotiator has three qualities: “The first is it has to be someone the other side trust, because you don’t do a deal with somebody you don’t trust.

“Secondly, it has got to be someone who doesn’t blink. And thirdly, it has got to be somebody who is prepared to walk away.

“Now, the danger is that if we choose the wrong person now, we will have no trust, no negotiation, no deal, and possibly, if we have an election, no Brexit.”

POLITICS Tories
(PA Graphics)

Another candidate will face the axe on Wednesday afternoon – with Mr Johnson, Mr Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid battling it out for the top job.

The first debate on Tuesday night is unlikely to have swayed many MPs’ minds, ending with no clear winner after a fractious debate taking in Brexit, Islamophobia and climate change.

However, Mr Gove claimed he “won the debate” on BBC Newsnight, “because I had the most detailed answers and I have a clear plan to how we can deliver Brexit and make sure we get all the benefits of life outside the European Union”.

As the candidate who currently has the fewest number of backers, there are rumours Sajid Javid could drop out, but supporter Stephen Crabb told Newsnight his favoured candidate had performed well in the debates and was not about to quit.

“Did Sajid Javid look like a man who’s about to throw in the towel or about to be knocked out of the contest?” Mr Crabb said.

“He fought tonight, I thought he gave – in a difficult format – he gave a good display of what he can offer the country.”

International Development Secretary Mr Stewart struck a positive note on Wednesday morning, telling Today that he has received positive responses from backers of eliminated hardline Brexiteer candidate Dominic Raab.

During the BBC debate, Mr Johnson’s rivals had rounded on him over his ambition to give people earning more than £50,000 a tax cut.

Just hours after winning the second round of voting among Tory MPs – which saw Mr Raab eliminated – Mr Johnson faced his opponents in a TV studio for the first time, having ducked the previous televised debate.

He came under fire for his tax plans, and was also taken to task over his comments comparing veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

Tory leadership contest timetable
(PA Graphics)

Mr Johnson said he would lift the National Insurance threshold for the low-paid, but there should be a “debate” about the 40p higher income tax rate, which currently kicks in at £50,000.

“It does seem to be very odd that in the Conservative Party people should seriously question whether it is right to try to lift nurses and heads of maths departments and police inspectors out of the top rate of tax,” he said.

But Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt said people accused the Tories of being “the party of the rich” and “we must never fall into the trap of doing tax cuts for the rich and confirming that prejudice”.

Environment Secretary Mr Gove said “cutting taxes for folk who earn what MPs earn and what millionaires earn, I think that is wrong”.

Mr Stewart, whose campaign has gained momentum, hit out at his rivals for making promises on Brexit and taxes that they could not keep.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us