Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has insisted Britain can leave the European Union with a deal at the end of October if the country has the “will” and the “drive” for Brexit.
The former foreign secretary said if it was possible to get to the moon and back 50 years ago then the problem of frictionless trade on the Irish border could be solved.
On the eve of the leadership ballot closing, Mr Johnson – who is widely expected to become prime minister on Wednesday – said it was time the country rediscovered its “sense of mission”.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border.
“There is no task so simple that government cannot over-complicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.
“It is time this country recovered some of its can-do spirit. We can come out of the EU on October 31, and yes, we certainly have the technology to do so. What we need now is the will and the drive.”
Mr Johnson claimed there were “technological pessimists” who think such a solution is impossible.
But he said: “There is abundant scope to find the solutions necessary – and they can and will be found, in the context of the Free Trade Agreement that we will negotiate with the EU (and this is common to both candidates in the current leadership contest) after we have left on October 31.”
His comments came after the Chancellor Philip Hammond became the second Cabinet minister to announce they will quit the Government if Mr Johnson becomes prime minister.
Mr Hammond, who has been in Number 11 for three years, has been a vocal critic of a no-deal Brexit – something Mr Johnson has vowed to do if he cannot secure concessions from Brussels.
Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show if he thought he would be sacked, Mr Hammond said: “No, I’m sure I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point.
“Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on 31 October, and it’s not something that I could ever sign up to.
“It’s very important that the prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy, and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the Palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.”
Justice Secretary David Gauke – a former Remainer – told the Sunday Times he would also quit on Wednesday if Mr Johnson enters Number 10.
Mr Gauke said: “If the test of loyalty to stay in the Cabinet is a commitment to support no deal on October 31 – which, to be fair to him, Boris has consistently said – then that’s not something I’m prepared to sign up to.
“I recognise that this spell in Government is coming to an end. Given that I’ve been in the Cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign to her.”
The postal ballot among Conservative Party members will close at 5pm on Monday, with the result due to be announced on Tuesday morning.
Mrs May will tender her resignation to the Queen after taking Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, with the new Tory leader set to enter Number 10 soon after.