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Johnson retains lead after second Tory leadership vote

Meets business leaders to reassure on no-deal Brexit

bbc

Image (BBC)

Boris Johnson remains the front-runner for the Conservative leadership after the latest round of voting, which also saw Dominic Raab kicked out of the contest after failing to reach the threshold number of votes.

Johnson remains way out in front with 126 votes, followed by Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid who amassed between 33 and 46 votes each – with Stewart claiming the most improved award.

An ill-tempered television debate that followed last night likely did little to advance any candidate’s position, with commentators suggesting that Johnson avoided any blunders in his belated entry into the contest’s spotlight, but didn’t look particularly comfortable despite his lead.

Johnson and Javid repeated pledges to leave the EU on 31 October – deal or no-deal – saying that it was “eminently feasible” to leave by that date. Gove and Hunt said a little more time may be needed, Javid said the date should be stuck to rigidly, and Stewart argued it was better to get the current withdrawal deal through Parliament and concentrate on the next stage of negotiations.

In a closely fought contest, the question is which of the second-tier candidates might be prepared to sacrifice his own ambition to support an alternative to Johnson, who damaged his standing with industry pretty comprehensively last year when he notoriously used an expletive when asked about business concerns over Brexit.

Johnson was meeting with industry leaders yesterday in an attempt to repair some of that damage, saying that the ‘F*** business’ remark had been taken out of context. The private breakfast included pledges for tax cuts and a pro-business agenda if he takes over as Prime Minister, according to a Financial Times report.

Around 40 business leaders were present at the event, and while there was approval for his comments on the role of business in society there were also concerns about his relaxed stance on a no-deal Brexit.

There were also concerns about what appeared to be a plan to defer any negotiations over the controversial Irish backstop until after 31 October, with the following two years used to either come up with a technological solution to avoid border checks or arriving at a free-trade deal to render it moot.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss – who some consider to be a potential Chancellor if Johnson replaces Theresa May as PM and accompanied him to the meeting – reportedly lost favour with the senior executives after suggesting that the UK economy would not be seriously damaged by a no-deal exit.

During the debate, Johnson also insisted that there was no issue with continuing free trade after Brexit, saying that could continue under Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). However the BBC points out that would also have to be agreed by the EU, with little prospect of that happening if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Article by
Phil Taylor

19th June 2019

From: Healthcare

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