'Do or die' Brexit could destroy govt, warns PM hopeful Hunt

Boris Johnson is the frontrunner in the race to succeed Theresa May as prime minister

Boris Johnson is the frontrunner in the race to succeed Theresa May as prime minister

The race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May has heated up this week, with the foreign minister Jeremy Hunt stepping up his criticism of Johnson, who has warned that he would execute a so-called no-deal Brexit if he fails to agree a deal with the EU.

"It is over two weeks now since we delivered a letter to the current Prime Minister Theresa May asking that we should be allowed in to look at the state of no deal preparations".

Asked whether the picture was actually much older, Mr Johnson repeatedly refused to comment on its "antiquity or provenance" and said the persistent line of questioning was "farcical".

Johnson added that he did "not believe for a moment" that the United Kingdom would pull out without a deal, even though he was willing to do so.

Mr Johnson yesterday underlined his commitment to Brexit by saying Britain would leave by October 31 "do or die, come what may".

On Brexit, Hunt too has said he is willing to accept a "no deal" departure, but says he is prepared to delay Brexit to get an agreement.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt has promised a 25% increase in defence spending over the next five years, a move he said would underline post-Brexit Britain remain a confident, global power.

He suggested Mr Hunt's willingness to seek an extension could open the door to a second referendum.

"The way to get our friends and partners to understand how serious we are is finally, I'm afraid, to abandon the defeatism and negativity that has enfolded us in a great cloud for so long and to prepare confidently and seriously for a WTO or no-deal outcome", he told BBC TV.

Boris Johnson challenged his rival for Britain's leadership on Tuesday to deliver Brexit by the end of October whatever happens, only to be accused once again of trying to avoid scrutiny.

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Mr Hunt said that was a "fake deadline" likely to trigger a general election.

"If we do it in this kind of "do or die way", the risk is that we'll just trip into a general election because parliament will stop it, as they did in March, and then we'll have (opposition Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn in Downing Street, and there will be no Brexit at all", foreign minister Hunt told BBC radio. "But I'm not going to do that if there's a prospect of a better deal, and if I did it it would be with a heavy heart because businesses up and down the country would face a lot of destruction".

"...there's nothing stopping us getting a deal by October if there's the political will".

In comments reported by The Independent, the former Whitehall mandarin warned that Parliament will not countenance leaving the European Union without a deal.

"Boris Johnson has not only entered the room but he has put on the straitjacket, padlocked the door and started the tap running".

Johnson played down the likelihood that he would prorogue, or suspend, parliament until the Brexit deadline to prevent lawmakers blocking a no-deal Brexit, but did not entirely rule it out.

The interview, conducted by LBC's Nick Ferrari, saw a sheepish Johnson refuse to answer questions on the subject 26 times.

He said it was essential that the public debate on the issue was conducted "on the basis of fact rather than supposition".

Mr Hunt agreed, saying the party and the country were facing a "very serious situation".

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