Boris Johnson has challenged Jeremy Hunt – his rival for the Tory leadership – to commit to taking Britain out of the EU by the end of October.
After days avoiding journalists’ questions, the former foreign secretary sought to get his campaign back on track, declaring he would deliver Brexit by the Halloween deadline “do or die”.
However he continued to avoid questions about his personal life as he returned to the campaign trail following a late-night row with partner Carrie Symonds that saw police called to their home last week.
Mr Hunt, meanwhile, hit back at his rival, dismissing October 31 as a “fake deadline” which would more likely result in a general election which could hand the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.
If I become PM, we will leave the EU on 31st October, deal or no deal. Today I have asked @Jeremy_Hunt whether he will also commit to this date, no matter what. We must keep our promises to the British people and deliver Brexit – no ifs, no buts, and no second referendum. pic.twitter.com/YgRSfESSFY
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) June 25, 2019
The Foreign Secretary suggested Mr Johnson would be unable to win the trust of other EU leaders to successfully negotiate a new Brexit deal with Brussels.
In a letter to his rival, Mr Johnson said the “central question” in the leadership contest was the issue of whether the next prime minister would commit to leaving the EU by October 31.
“If we fail to deliver once again, the consequences for our party and our country will be devastating,” he said.
“We must not kick the can down the road again. The British people have had enough of being left in limbo.”
But in a BBC interview, Mr Hunt warned that insisting upon the October 31 departure date was a mistake.
“I think that October 31 come hell or high water is a fake deadline, because it’s more likely to trip us into a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit, and that would hand the keys to Jeremy Corbyn and then we’d have no Brexit at all,” he said.
While he said that getting a new deal by the end of October was “doable”, it required a prime minister who the other EU leaders trusted and were prepared to talk to.
“It’s about the personality of our PM. If you choose someone where there’s no trust, there’s going to be no negotiation, no deal,” he said.