Boris Johnson issues Tory ‘extinction’ warning unless Brexit is delivered

The Tory party could be wiped out unless Brexit happens on October 31, Boris Johnson warned his fellow MPs as he set out his pitch to be the next prime minister.

The leadership frontrunner promised that he could deliver Brexit and avoid the "potential extinction" of the Conservatives.

His stark warning was echoed by fellow Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, who said a delay to the UK's exit from the European Union could "spell the end" for the party.

Their comments, at a private hustings for MPs organised by the One Nation group of centre-right Conservatives, came as hardline Brexiteers demanded that the next prime minister signs up to the October 31 deadline.

A paper published by the European Research Group called on leadership contenders to abandon Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration setting out the future UK-EU relationship and step up preparations for a no-deal exit on World Trade Organisation terms.

At the first major hustings of the leadership contest, more than 80 MPs packed into a Commons committee room to hear from Mr Johnson, Mrs Leadsom, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart.

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Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab at 'A Better Deal' event at the British Academy, London, outlining opportunities if Parliament rejects the Government's proposed deal, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.
File photo dated 10/01/19 of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who has breached House of Commons rules by failing to declare a financial interest within the required time limit, the Commons Standards Committee has found.
Conservative former minister Sam Gyimah who has become the 13th MP to throw their hat into the race to replace Theresa May as party leader, leaves the Sky studios in Osterley, west London after appearing on Sophy Ridge On Sunday where he announced his intention to run.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove speaking at the V&A Museum, London during the Step Up To The Plate event, where food giant Nestle and major supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose pledges to help halve food waste by 2030.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves the cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street, London.
File photo dated 03/05/19 of Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who will warn in a speech to senior security figures, that British nationals could be banned from travelling to the last remaining rebel enclave in Syria under new counter-terror laws.
File photo dated 23/04/19 of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced that the care of every patient stuck on segregated wards will be independently reviewed, after a report suggested many vulnerable people are being failed.
British Conservative MP Mark Harper speaks in the Parliament in London
Former cabinet minister, Esther McVey, launches Blue Collar Conservatism at the Houses of Parliament in London today.
Andrea Leadsom arrives at her home in London, she has resigned, saying in a letter to Theresa May "I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result".
Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London.

The former foreign secretary, who was described as being in a "subdued" mood with a "serious" tone, promised that he could take on Nigel Farage's Brexit Party and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour – although he ruled out a snap election.

"We need to realise the depth of the problems we face – unless we get on and do this thing (Brexit), we will be punished for a very long time," he said.

"There is a very real choice between getting Brexit done and the potential extinction of this great party – but I believe I can take on Farage and win back the voters being won over by him."

Ex-Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, one of the leading figures in the One Nation group which organised the event, said Mr Johnson told MPs if Brexit was delayed again there was a risk the "relevance" of the 2016 referendum result "starts to wane".

Scottish Conservatives' party conference
Sajid Javid warned against copying the Brexit Party (Jane Barlow/PA)

Asked about Mr Johnson's warning about the future of the party, Mrs Morgan said: "I think we all know that the stakes are very high."

Home Secretary Mr Javid stressed the party should not seek to emulate the Brexit Party and ruled out a pact with them.

In a comment met with appreciative banging of desks, he said: "We will not beat the Brexit Party by becoming the Brexit Party."

International Development Secretary Mr Stewart told the event: "I began this race believing I should be a truth-teller on principle – ironically I have discovered that it is very popular – and the only way to avoid an election and win the next one is by being straight with people.

"No more unicorns, no more red lines, no more promises we can't deliver. That's how we get Brexit done, defeat Corbyn and unify the country"

The influential ERG will set out its latest blueprint for Brexit on Wednesday.

Deputy chairman Steve Baker said: "The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have failed absolutely. They are not coming back.

"The next leader of the Conservative Party needs to know that and act on that basis.

"Our new prime minister will have three months to get this right, or that's it – for this government, this parliament and this party."

The ERG paper has the support of 16 Tories, including the group's chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Both Kit Malthouse and James Cleverly pulled out of the leadership race ahead of the party setting out new rules to speed up the contest, which now has 11 contenders.

Candidates now need to secure support from eight MPs rather than the two required under the system used in 2016.

To stay in the contest, candidates will then need to win more than 16 votes in the first ballot and 32 in the second round in order to speed up the process of whittling them down to a final two.

The first ballot of MPs will take place on June 13, with further votes scheduled on June 18, 19 and 20.

The winner – and the next prime minister – will be decided by Tory members from the two candidates remaining at the end of the process by the week beginning July 22.

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