Tory Rivals Clash as Johnson Dodges TV Debate: Brexit Update
(Bloomberg) -- Five candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister clashed over Brexit in the first TV debate of the Conservative leadership election on Sunday. But the face of Brexit and clear front-runner in the race, Boris Johnson, was criticized after he refused to take part in the Channel 4 broadcast. The contest continues with the second round of voting on Tuesday.
Must read: His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson
Dominic Raab sparred with rivals over his threat to suspend Parliament in order to get Britain out of the EU with no dealRaab, Rory Stewart, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid took part in the first television debate on Channel 4 Cabinet minister Amber Rudd warned Parliament will find a way to stop a no-deal Brexit, and rebel Tories could vote to topple the next PM YouGov/Sunday Times Poll put Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in lead on 24%, with Conservatives and Labour tied on 21%. Liberal Democrats were on 19%.
Stewart Wins Applause, Offers to Engage Farage (7:15 p.m.)
TV audiences are notoriously unreliable as indicators of broader political appeal, but Rory Stewart won more applause than other candidates in the debate. He has run a convention-defying campaign based on social media and a national tour with the hashtag #RoryWalks.
But he has his work cut out. Stewart is currently in last place in the MPs’ ballot and needs a major injection of support to avoid being knocked out of the race on Tuesday.
In the debate, Stewart said he would be willing to work with Nigel Farage on delivering Brexit. Broadening the Tory party’s support is something to be "proud" of, he said. "I’m not ashamed of the fact that Lib Dem and Labour voters say that they would vote for me."
Stewart insisted the "energy" in Britain is in the political center-ground and that compromise is vital. "I think we need to work to listen to each other and above all to bring this country together," he said. It was a popular message with the Channel 4 audience but may not persuade enough Tory MPs.
Javid: Raab’s No-deal Plan Worthy of ‘Dictator’ (6:55 p.m.)
Home Secretary Sajid Javid led the attacks on Dominic Raab over his suggestion that Parliament may need to be suspended in order to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31. "We are not selecting a dictator of our country, we are selecting a prime minister," Javid said.
Then Raab and Michael Gove traded blows over the same issue. Gove used to be Raab’s ally in the Ministry of Justice and the Vote Leave referendum campaign but he condemned his rival, saying suspending Parliament "would be a terrible thing."
Raab insisted the option should not be ruled out and shot back at Gove: "You would buckle." But Gove countered: "You cannot take Britain out of the European Union against the will of Parliament."
It was a passionate exchange, with the two men talking across each other as they tried to get their messages over. Rory Stewart accused his party colleagues of engaging in a macho showdown.
Tory Rivals Begin Channel 4 TV Debate (6:30 p.m.)
Channel 4 have left an empty lectern where Boris Johnson would have stood in the first televised debate. But his five rivals -- Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart -- all turned up.
The first question focused on how to defeat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
"We are all saying the same thing -- the only way to defeat the Brexit Party is to Brexit," said Hunt, who is in second place after the first round of voting in the election. It is vital to defeat Corbyn too, Hunt said, because the Labour leader is opposed to British values and is "against Britain".
Rudd: Rebels Would Topple No-Deal Government (12 p.m.)
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she would not vote to topple the government in a no-confidence vote but her colleagues would, if it were the only way to stop a no-deal Brexit.
“There are number of colleagues who have gone public saying they would consider doing that, and there are a number I know of privately who say that," Rudd said in a BBC interview. "Any candidate needs to factor that in as well into their strategy for the next few months.”
Asked if she believed the numbers of rebels were easily enough to defeat the government on a no-confidence motion, potentially triggering the collapse of the government, Rudd replied: “I believe they are, yes.”
Hunt Would Serve Under PM Johnson (11 a.m.)
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would serve "loyally" in a Johnson government if the front-runner becomes prime minister. Hunt is Johnson’s nearest rival -- in a distant second place -- after the first round of voting in the leadership contest among Tory MPs.
Despite his pledge, Hunt stepped up his attack on Johnson’s Brexit plans, saying his rival’s refusal to countenance another delay beyond the Oct. 31 deadline would push Britain into a no-deal breakup from the EU or a general election.
"What Boris is offering -- a hard stop at any cost on Oct. 31 -- means that he is effectively committing the country to no-deal" or an election, Hunt told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. These are not the best choices his party can offer the country, he said.
Hunt said EU leaders would be open to re-negotiating the Brexit deal to remove the need for the contentious Irish border backstop plan. This could include rewriting the political declaration on the future U.K.-EU partnership to make it legally binding, he said.
Stewart Rules Out Serving Under Johnson (10:30 a.m.)
There have been conflicting messages about whether Rory Stewart, an outsider for the leadership who has run a vigorous social media campaign, would serve in a Johnson-led government. On Sunday he ruled it out. "I would not serve in a Boris cabinet," Stewart told the BBC’s Andrew Marr program.
Stewart insisted he wanted to change the country and offered a clear alternative vision for Brexit to Johnson’s and predicted he will win. He challenged Johnson to show up at Sunday’s Channel 4 TV debate among the rival contenders so they can cross-examine his policies.
"Who do you trust?" Stewart said. "We want to know what he believes. We want him to sit in this debate tonight and tell us."
Raab Praises Johnson’s ‘Huge Talents’ (10 a.m.)
Dominic Raab, who came fourth in the first round of the leadership voting last week, said he’s not pitching for a job in a Johnson cabinet. But he praised the man he called the "front-runner" in the campaign and said he would not be "petulant" and rule out serving in his government.
"Boris has got huge talents, he’s a great charismatic character, fizzing with optimism," Raab said. "I just think that when it comes to not just vision but getting things done I will be in a better place."
The contender refused to back down on his suggestion that Parliament might need to be suspended to get Brexit done.
It’s important to keep the option open as a negotiating tactic as well as to deliver on the will of voters who backed Leave in the 2016 referendum, he said. Failure will force the Conservatives out of power, Raab told Sky News. "The Tory party will be toast unless we are out by the end of October."
Rudd: Parliament Will Block No-Deal (9:39 a.m.)
Cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who is backing Jeremy Hunt in the leadership campaign, warned Johnson he won’t get away with forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Rudd told Sky News Parliament will find "a way" to stop the U.K. leaving the EU without an agreement, despite Johnson’s promises to complete the split by the Oct. 31 deadline, come what may. The Commons Speaker John Bercow is “an activist" and will ensure MPs have a say, she said.
Rudd criticized Johnson and others who aren’t ruling out suspending Parliament in order to stop MPs blocking a no-deal divorce. That would be “ridiculous" and “outrageous," she said.
Ellwood Backs Stewart, Says Johnson Fine (9:20 a.m.)
Junior Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said he was supporting Matt Hancock in the election but is now backing Rory Stewart. While Johnson would make a fine prime minister, he should be tested in the heat of a national campaign, Ellwood said.
Labour’s Benn Says He Will Try to Stop No-Deal (9:05 a.m)
Hilary Benn, the Labour MP chairing Parliament’s Brexit select committee, said he would fight Johnson if he tried to take the U.K. out of the European Union without a deal. He said there are "one or two" options for the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit and attacked Tory leadership contenders who are threatening to suspend Parliament to force one through.
"It would be scandalous to try and use that to in effect shut the doors of Parliament," Benn told Sky television’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. "I simply don’t think it’s going to happen."
McVey to Support Boris Johnson’s Leadership Bid, Telegraph Says
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