Johnson promises no-deal preparation intensity on day one if he becomes PM

Boris Johnson will immediately launch a major drive to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit if he becomes prime minister.

The front-runner for the Tory leadership again refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to force through EU withdrawal without an agreement at the final Tory leadership hustings.

Mr Johnson insisted that if he becomes PM next week he would ensure the country was ready for the impact of no-deal.

He told ITV’s Peston: “From the get-go, we start saying, look, what do you need, what help do you need, what reassurances do you need?

Tory leadership race
Tory leadership race

“Here is what the Government has for you. Are you ready?

“And, we make sure everybody understands all the possible risks and eventualities.

“And, it’s by doing that… in a really wholehearted and systematic and confident way that you, of course, minimise any disruption that might take place in the unlikely eventuality of you, actually, having to come out on WTO terms.”

Tory leadership race
Tory leadership race

The comments came after the former foreign secretary refused to say when he would bring in a Queen’s Speech as prime minister.

With critics accusing him of being ready to suspend Parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit on October 31, Mr Johnson avoided questioning on his plans at the hustings.

Asked when he would bring in a Queen’s Speech if he gets to Number 10, Mr Johnson said: “I am not going to comment on our programme.”

If Mr Johnson planned a Queen’s Speech laying out the Government’s legislative plans for the start of November it would probably ensure MPs would not be in Parliament for the previous two weeks – including the October 31 deadline for Brexit.

Mr Johnson’s comments came before a Commons clash on Thursday to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit without Parliamentary involvement.

The ex-Cabinet minister kicked off the last Tory leadership hustings by brandishing a kipper on stage.

Addressing the crowd in east London, Mr Johnson whipped out the fish and said the plastic wrapping it was in was an example of EU rules increasing business costs.

Mr Johnson said the entirety of Theresa May’s Brexit deal is “effectively defunct” but that the backstop to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland is the most egregious part.

“I think the whole withdrawal agreement is effectively defunct but the backstop is certainly the bit I find most difficult,” he said.

Asked if he was good with money, Mr Johnson said: “What can I say, I’ve certainly spent a lot. Yes.”

Mr Johnson said he was a feminist and did not dye his hair.

His leadership rival Jeremy Hunt also declined to say when he would hold a Queen’s Speech, but has ruled out proroguing Parliament in order to get a no-deal through.

Asked whether Mrs May’s deal is “dead”, Mr Hunt replied: “As it is now, yes.”

Both candidates stuck firm to their Brexit stances despite Mrs May insisting the next prime minister should strive to reach a withdrawal deal.

Offering advice to her successor, Mrs May said they should find a way to leave the European Union that was “in the national interest”.