Johnson Rules Out Another Delay ‘At this Stage’: Brexit Update

Thomas Penny, Alex Morales and Tim Ross
Johnson Rules Out Another Delay ‘At this Stage’: Brexit Update

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Boris Johnson announced he will join a BBC TV debate with his rival leadership candidates on Tuesday, after building a huge lead in the race to become British prime minister. Health Secretary Matt Hancock withdrew from the contest without saying who he will back.

Key Developments:

Johnson promises to take part in debate on Tuesday but is unlikely to join leadership rivals in Sunday evening’s debate. Health Secretary Matt Hancock withdraws, without saying who he will now supportPressure is building on Johnson to take part in TV debates; Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused him of “hiding away”Development Secretary Rory Stewart said he would serve in a Johnson government, despite the recent acrimony

Johnson: No Experience of Cocaine Since Teens (1:40 p.m.)

Johnson said his experience of cocaine was "a single inconclusive event when I was a teenager.” He then replied "no" when asked in his BBC interview whether he had used the drug since.

The question has been raised with all candidates after revelations last weekend that Environment Secretary Michael Gove used the illegal drug. There has been some confusion over Johnson’s accounts in the past.

In a 2007 interview with GQ magazine, Johnson said he "vividly" remembered trying cocaine at university and “it achieved no pharmacological, psychotropical or any other effect on me whatsoever.” In an appearance on the TV show Have I Got News for You two years earlier he said it had made him sneeze so none had gone up his nose. “I may have been doing icing sugar,” he said.

Johnson Rules Out Brexit Delay ‘At this Stage’ (1:30 p.m.)

Johnson repeated his vow to get Brexit done by the Oct. 31 deadline, with or without a deal, but left the door slightly open to changing his mind nearer the time.

“We have got to be out by Oct. 31," he told BBC radio. "It would be absolutely bizarre to signal at this stage that the U.K. government was willing once again to run up the white flag and delay yet again."

Johnson reiterated his commitment to leave on Oct. 31, and that he would leave without a deal if necessary. “My commitment is to honor the will of the people and to take this country out on Oct. 31 and to get this done."

The key is to push the talks on the future of the Irish border back into the transition period after the U.K. leaves the EU, he said. Johnson said he favors “maximum facilitation” techniques for the border, with customs checks carried out away from the frontier.

Johnson Promises to Take Part in TV Debate (1 p.m.)

The front-runner said he will join a TV debate with his rivals once more of them have been knocked out of the contest next Tuesday. After stalling for the past week on whether he’d participate in debates with other contenders, Johnson said he is prepared to take part.

“It is important that we have sensible grown-up debates,” Johnson told BBC radio on Friday in his first broadcast interview of the campaign so far. “I’m more than happy to do the BBC TV debate on Tuesday.”

Johnson made clear he’s unlikely to participate in the first televised debate on Channel 4 on Sunday, saying debates with many candidates can be “cacophonous,” and that the best time to hold a debate is after the second round of voting on Tuesday – when at least one more candidate will be eliminated.

Hammond Warns Rivals on Taxes, EU Bill (11:40 a.m.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned Conservative candidates seeking to succeed Theresa May not to undermine the party’s “hard-won reputation for fiscal responsibility,” and said the U.K. must pay the settlement bill agreed with the European Union.

“I would not recommend any of my colleagues threaten to withhold payments which are part of an existing obligation the U.K. has,’’ Hammond told reporters in Luxembourg, where he is attending a meeting of EU finance ministers. He also ruled out serving in any future government which pursued a policy of leaving the bloc without a deal.

Hammond, who wrote an open letter to all Tory candidates on Thursday urging them to be restrained in their spending plans, said a “couple of the candidates have signaled privately that they will be signing up to the pledge.”

Hancock Calls for ‘Scrutiny’ of Candidates (11:25 a.m.)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for remaining candidates in the contest to succeed Theresa May to be properly scrutinized. He declined to criticize the favorite, Boris Johnson, in an interview with the BBC broadcast shortly after he withdrew from the race, but made it clear he thought the former foreign secretary should sign up to televised debates.

“All the contestants should be in the TV debates; I think that there should be scrutiny,” Hancock said. “It isn’t just to be the leader of the Conservative Party, it’s to be the next prime minister -- and so that scrutiny is important.”

Hancock said he’s talking to all the candidates to see how they can advance the pro-business, centrist agenda he’d been promoting. On his withdrawal, he said: “The party clearly is looking for a candidate to deal with the here and now. I very much put myself forward as a candidate focused on the future.”

Hancock Withdraws From Tory Race (11 a.m.)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock withdrew from the Tory contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, without saying who he would now support.

“I will look for the best way to advance the values we fought for, of free enterprise, and an open, aspirational, free society, underpinned by an optimistic belief in the value of each individual person,” Hancock said in an emailed statement. “I will talk to all the other candidates about how these values can be best taken forward.”

Hancock’s decision comes after he received 20 votes in the first-round ballot of Tory MPs on Thursday. Candidates need 33 votes to make it through the second round next week.

Hunt Says Johnson Is ‘Hiding Away’ (9:15 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came second in Thursday’s ballot, said Boris Johnson should take part in televised leadership debates to allow proper scrutiny. He referred to wartime leader Winston Churchill -- about whom the front-runner has written a book -- as he urged him to be more open.

“What would Churchill say if someone who wants to be prime minister of the United Kingdom is hiding away from the media?” Hunt asked in an interview on BBC Radio 4. “Anyone who wants that job should have the courage to put themselves forward, engage with the media and engage with the public.”

Hunt said he could negotiate a better “package’’ with the European Union and offer more choices than Johnson, who has committed to leaving the bloc by Oct. 31. Hunt said he would only agree to a no-deal divorce “in extremis.”

“His hard stop on October 31 is effectively saying the best we can offer the country is either a no-deal Brexit, or a general election if Parliament succeeds in stopping that no-deal Brexit,’’ Hunt said. “We need to ask is that the best for the country, are there some better choices?”

Stewart Would Work With Johnson in Crisis (7:30 a.m.)

Leadership contender Rory Stewart, who said previously he would not serve in a cabinet led by Boris Johnson, said he would be willing if the country was in “crisis.”

“If we ended up in a crisis, and I fear no-deal Brexit would be a crisis, and if he were to wish me to come back, which I think is a little doubtful given the slight acrimony of the last few weeks, then of course I’d be honored to serve,” Stewart told BBC Radio 4.

Umunna Said Mistake to Try to Build New Party (Earlier)

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour MP who announced late Thursday he had joined the Liberal Democrats after a short spell with Change UK, said his involvement in trying to form a new party had been a mistake.

“It’s quite clear there isn’t room for more than one center-ground option, particularly under first past the post, in British politics,’’ he told BBC Radio. “What people actually wanted us to do was to work together in the center ground with existing forces to build the strongest possible vehicle to take us forward.’’

Umunna, who described himself as “unapologetically internationalist,” said there is no way to both end austerity and “sponsor Brexit in the way the two main parties are doing.”

Earlier:

U.K. Tory Rivals Fight to Stop Johnson From Winning PowerNo-Deal Brexit Threat Is Act of Self-Harm, Business Chief SaysBrexit Bulletin: What Brussels Thinks of Boris JohnsonHow the Tory Rivals for PM Reckon They Can Fix Brexit

--With assistance from Richard Bravo.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Tim Ross

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