Jeremy Hunt says pursuing a no-deal Brexit would be ‘suicide’ for Tories

Jostling begins in Tory leadership contest with 10 candidates in the race

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04:MP Jeremy Hunt leaving No 10 Downing Street as Health Secretary on the day Prime Minister David Cameron holds a government reshuffle on September 4, 2012 in Lon
(Image credit: 2012 Getty Images)

Jeremy Hunt says pursuing a no-deal Brexit would be “suicide” for the Tories. As the race to replace Theresa May gathers momentum, the foreign secretary said Conservatives would be “annihilated” and “face extinction” if there was a general election before Brexit happened.

Hunt is one of 10 people seeking to replace Theresa May, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid joining the fray yesterday. Javid launched his bid by writing on Twitter that “first and foremost, we must deliver Brexit”.

Michael Gove got his own bid moving yesterday by vowing to allow EU nationals in the UK at the time of the referendum to apply for citizenship free of charge.

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The Guardian says Gove’s citizenship pledge sees him “tip his hat to both wings of the fracturing Tory party”, while The Times says Hunt is “presenting himself as the grown-up choice”.

However, rival candidate Esther McVey has responded to Hunt’s words with scorn. Writing on Twitter, she said “political suicide” would be not leaving the EU at the end of October, as planned.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse launched his own bid, saying the contest “cannot be about the same old faces” and pitching himself as “the new face, with fresh new ideas”.

The Sun reports another contender, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, has written to ITV, BBC, Sky and Channel 4 to ask them to broadcast a live debate between those vying for the Conservative leadership.

In his letter, Hancock said: “This contest is not just about who leads our party but who leads our country. Rather than just an internal-facing party conversation, we need a truly national debate about the future direction of the UK.”

Hancock wants two separate debates: one between all 10 candidates and another when the final two are picked by MPs. His move comes 24 hours after Dominic Raab, the bookmakers’ second favourite to win the contest, challenged his rivals to televised contests.

After initially refusing to commit, the bookies’ favourite to win the leadership battle, Boris Johnson, is now “under pressure” to join in the debates, according to the Daily Telegraph.

A source close to Johnson said the former foreign secretary was prepared to “discuss details of a debate with different candidates”.

The leadership contest follows the announcement by Theresa May on Friday that she will stand down as leader on 7 June.

The 10 candidates are: Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, former leader of the house Andrea Leadsom, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Housing Minister Kit Malthouse.

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