Jeremy Hunt would not force general election if Parliament refuses no-deal

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has said that unlike his rival, Boris Johnson, he would not force a general election, should Parliament take the option of no-deal off the table.

The Foreign Secretary made the comments on ITV's Peston show, clearly demarcating the differing standpoints of the two in the race for the Tory crown.

Mr Johnson, who is seen as the front runner, has previously said he would call a general election should MPs pass a bill to take away the option of no-deal.

Both candidates have promised they would take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by October 31, regardless of a deal or no-deal scenario.

However, while Mr Hunt has ruled out suspending Parliament, Mr Johnson has refused to rule this out, meaning even if MPs opposed it, no-deal would still be forced through.

  • Watch ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand provide an analysis of the latest developments

Speaking to ITV News' Political Editor, Mr Hunt said: "I have said that I will not take us into a general election, I will not provoke a general election if Parliament takes no-deal off the table.

"My point is we should not go back to the British people for another mandate until we've delivered the mandate we got last time, which was to leave the European Union.

"I presume from what Boris is saying that he would, but all I would say is all the Conservative Party members that I talk to say it would be absolutely fatal - whoever was leader - to take us into a General Election before we've left the European Union.

Referencing the Peterborough by-election which saw Labour retain its seat despite the former MP being jailed over lying about a speeding ticket, Mr Hunt said: "We were squeezed by the Brexit Party on the right, the Lib Dems on the left and Labour came through the middle."

Boris Johnson has not ruled out suspending Parliament. Credit: PA

Also on Wednesday evening, both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt were taking part in Conservative Party hustings which was dominated by Brexit.

Mr Hunt again reiterated that it was essential the Conservatives had delivered Brexit before they went to the country in the next general election.

"If we have an election before we have left the European Union, it doesn't matter how charismatic a leader you are, we will be thrashed and we will put Corbyn in Downing Street," he said.

He added: "The only way to win back voters who have gone to the Brexit Party is to Brexit."

While Mr Hunt ruled out a general election if Parliament insisted on no-deal, Mr Johnson has not ruled one out, nor has he declined to rule out the option of suspending Parliament it in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.

The former mayor of London's stance means should he become prime minister, he has said nothing can be done to stop the UK leaving the EU on October 31.

His stance contrasts to Mr Hunt's, who even though he has said he would leave the bloc on Halloween without a deal, he would not force it through if Parliament ruled it out.

The Tory leadership front runner insisted he was "not attracted" to the idea of "proroguing" Parliament, saying he wanted deliver Brexit as a "proud representative democracy".

But he warned that it was essential that MPs finally acted on the 2016 referendum result and took Britain out of the EU.

"I think our colleagues really are starting to come together," he said.

"They are thinking about this in a very mature and sober way.

"I am not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing.

"Let's get this thing done as a proud representative democracy that asked the people of this country a question, that received a very clear answer, that promised faithfully to put that answer into effect and now we have got to do it."

At the same time Mr Johnson rejected the idea he could cancel MPs' summer break so they could sit throughout August to try to resolve the deadlock, suggesting the solution did not lie at Westminster.

"I am not necessarily convinced that Parliament can sort out the problem that Parliament has helped to create," he said.

"Perhaps more sittings of Parliament is not what we want."

Meanwhile, Pro-Brexit MP Mark Francois said Mr Johnson is being driven forward as the front runner for the party leadership because Tory party members "desperately" want the UK to leave the EU.

He added Hunt's stance supporting Remain over Leave in the 2016 referendum campaign means he lacks the support of many party voters.

Previously polling shows voters lack faith in Hunt to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union on the 31 October. But he responded saying voters have told him how they can see he is "passionate" to deliver Brexit.