Most Tory leadership hopefuls insist they can renegotiate the Brext deal
Jean-Claude Piris, the director-general of the EU Council’s legal services department until 2010, spoke out after the first televised debate of the campaign when most candidates talked about changing the unpopular deal thrashed out by Theresa May and her European counterparts. Mr Piris, a former UN diplomat, said it might be possible to revisit the political declaration but not the unpopular withdrawal agreement which was rejected by Parliament three times and eventually led to Mrs May’s downfall as Tory leader.
They perfectly know they are talking about unicorns
Referring to the challengers vying to replace her at Number 10, Mr Piris said: “Most lie to their peculiar electorate because they think that it is necessary to be elected.
“They perfectly know they are talking about unicorns.
“The political declaration might be changed according to any new British wish, but not the withdrawal agreement itself.”
Tory leadership contest
The five candidates who took part in last night’s debate on Channel 4 agreed the next Prime Minister had to take Britain out of the EU but there were sharp differences as to how that could be achieved.
All of the candidates, except International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, said they would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal.
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9.04am update: Gauke mocks Johnson’s financial policies
Justice Secretary David Gauke mocked Mr Johnson’s fiscal policies in response to his pledge to boost broadband infrastructure.
Mr Gauke, who backs Rory Stewart in the Tory leadership contest, said: “I’m the last person to want to curtail the leadership race.
“But every Telegraph column by Boris Johnson increases borrowing by £ billions.”
In a veiled reference to reports suggesting that Mr Hancock could have his sights on 11 Downing Street under a Johnson premiership, Mr Gauke added: “If Boris wins, good luck to whoever becomes his Chancellor.
“It would be a noble act of self-sacrifice to accept the job. Who’d do it?”
8.43am update: Gove disappointed by Hancock snub
Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove said he was disappointed that Matt Hancock had decided to support front-runner Boris Johnson.
Mr Gove claimed the Health Secretary had been “alternating” between backing him or Mr Johnson over the weekend.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He is a friend of mine and I know that over the course of the weekend he had a very tough decision to make.
“Without going into private conversations, I know that he was alternating between supporting Boris and supporting me.
“He felt that we were the two strongest candidates in the race.”
Michael Gove said he was disappointed Matt Hancock was backing Boris Johnson
8am update: Hancock backer switches support to Stewart
East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton, who had previously backed Matt Hancock, said he would now support Rory Stewart in the Tory leadership contest.
He said: “With Matt out, I’m still looking for the same things: energy, intelligence and enthusiasm with a clear vision for delivering Brexit and for the country beyond it.
“Someone who really gets the Union, with ideas to strengthen and secure it.”
Mr Stewart secured just 19 votes in the first round of the contest and needs 33 votes in tomorrow’s second ballot of Tory MPs to stay in the leadership race.
Matt Hancock is backing Boris
7.30am update: Hancock backs Johnson in leadership race
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has thrown his weight behind Boris Johnson after pulling out of the Tory leadership contest last week.
Mr Hancock ruled out a no-deal Brexit during his campaign in direct opposition to Mr Johnson’s hardline stance but said he had now decided the former foreign secretary was the best candidate to re-unite the fractured Conservative Party.
His endorsement came after the clear frontrunner was criticised for failing to appear in the first of the televised leadership debates staged by Channel 4 last night.