Tory leadership race: Candidates clash over Brexit on BBC debate

Tory leadership race: Candidates clash over Brexit on BBC debate

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The final five candidates vying to be the next British Prime Minister are taking part in a BBC debate this evening.

From the outset, the Tory rivals clashed on Brexit, with Boris Johnson saying the UK “must come out” of the European Union on October 31.

“Otherwise, I’m afraid, we face a catastrophic loss of confidence in politics,” he warned.

“We have already kicked the can down the road twice and I think the British people are getting thoroughly fed up.”

Mr Johnson added: “Unless we get out on October 31, I think that we will all start to pay a really serious price.”

Both Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove said a delay beyond October 31 may be necessary if a deal was within reach.

Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt said he would walk away without a deal if there was no prospect of agreement by October 31. But “if we were nearly there, then I would take a bit longer”.

Mr Gove said he would be prepared to allow “extra time” if a deal was close. He said he was “upset” and “angry” that Brexit had not yet happened.

“Because I started this, I will finish it,” the prominent Brexit-backer said.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “fundamental” to get out of the EU by October 31 and honour the result of the referendum.

On the BBC debate, he said: “We have failed to act on those instructions and it is fundamental that it has to be by October 31.”

He told Mr Gove and Mr Hunt: “We have got to learn from our mistakes. One of the mistakes we have made so far is by having this flexible deadline.

“If you don’t have a deadline, you don’t concentrate minds, and that also includes the minds of our European friends.”

Rory Stewart said it would not be possible to negotiate a new deal by October 31, leaving the existing Withdrawal Agreement as the only way out of the EU.

“I would say to all these people on the platform who voted for the deal: take the shock of the European election, let’s get on with it, let’s vote it through, let’s get it done.”

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