Boris Johnson appears to have downgraded his promise of support for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
The frontrunner for the Tory crown said he wanted a probe into all types of discrimination, despite having previously backed calls for an investigation specifically into anti-Muslim prejudice.
His rival, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, also faced criticism after claiming the two sides in the Northern Ireland conflict must be treated “the same”.
At a Tory leadership hustings, Mr Johnson said it would be “absolutely folly” to rule out suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit againast the rule of MPs. He said the controversial measure should remain as “an essential tool in our negotiation”.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt conceded the winner of the contest could spend the shortest time as prime minister in history, and said he would resign if he failed to deliver Brexit.
Mr Johnson told party members in Bournemouth that he wanted to be the prime minister of a “representative democracy, a great representative democracy in which we believe in our elected representatives to take the right decision”.
“I would rather than confiding in this archaic device to get this thing done at my own behest, I would rather confide in the maturity of common sense of parliamentarians, all of whom are now staring down the barrel of public distrust,” he said.
Mr Hunt told the hustings that he would introduce a “no-deal Bill” in the first Queen’s Speech in the new parliamentary session to ensure the country is “fully” prepared for such an outcome.
And, asked by moderator Hannah Vaughan Jones if he was “concerned by threats it could be the shortest tenure in history”, he replied: “Well, if we get this wrong, it will be.
“And we have got the biggest constitutional crisis in living memory and that is because MPs like me made a promise to the people that we would deliver the outcome of the referendum whatever it was and we failed.”
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Good morning and welcome to our rolling coverage of the latest developments from Westminster and beyond.
The Tory leadership race is grinding on this morning after Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson both attempted to seize the initiative with policy announcements overnight.
The current foreign secretary has promised to cancel the tuition fee debts of young entrepreneurs who start up businesses and employ people.
Mr Hunt, who has made great play of his background as an entrepreneur, said he wanted to give young people the confidence to go into business for themselves.
If we are to turbocharge our economy and take advantage of Brexit, we need to back the young entrepreneurs who take risks and create jobs. I started my own business I still use the lessons that experience taught me - focus, drive and the art of negotiation - every single day. I want more young people to have the confidence to take the decision to start their own business, so we create wealth and start thriving as a country again.
Meanwhile the former foreign secretary and London mayor has announced plans for an Australian-style points-based immigration system if he becomes prime minister.
Mr Johnson said he wanted to "learn from" Australia, which he said had a simple system based on contribution and control.
We must be much more open to high-skilled immigration such as scientists, but we must also assure the public that, as we leave the EU, we have control over the number of unskilled immigrants coming into the country. We must be tougher on those who abuse our hospitality. Other countries such as Australia have great systems and we should learn from them.
Japan's foreign minister has been sending a message to the two Tory leadership candidate in an interview on the Today programme this morning: please agree a deal before leaving the EU.
Taro Kono said his country was concerned a no-deal Brexit could disrupt supply chains for Japanese companies in the UK and warned firms were already moving investment elsewhere.
"Whenever we have had meetings that was the issue - please no no-deal Brexit. Whatever they do is up to the UK government, we just don't want to have a negative impact on the foreign companies operating in the UK, including the Japanese."
Here is more on a fresh attempt by MPs to block no deal, by my colleague Ashley Cowburn.
Boris Johnson is again ramping up pressure on Tory colleagues to back his promise to "do or die" on leaving the EU by 31 October, with or without a deal.
He has given an interview to the ConservativeHome website in which he said every member of his Cabinet would be expected to sign up to the pledge.
Asked about a guarantee his senior team would comprise solely of those committed to leaving by Halloween, he replied:
Yes, that will be the policy of the government.
I want obviously to have a broad range of talent in my government, the government that I will lead, but clearly people must be reconciled to the very, very, very small possibility, and I stress it will be a very, very small possibility, that we would have to leave on those terms. I don’t think it will happen but they would have to be reconciled to it.
The suggestion could exclude a number of leading Tories who might have considered themselves in line for a top job in a future Johnson government, such as Amber Rudd, David Gauke or Greg Clark.
Robert Peston has come under fire from some for his questioning of Jeremy Hunt about his baby sister's fatal accident when the Tory leadership contender was just two years old.
The broadcaster defended his decision saying Mr Hunt had agreed to the line of questioning before appearing on his show on Wednesday evening.
The ITV political editor tweeted:
I have upset many of you by asking about this. But it was not a 'gotcha' as you seem to think. I told Jeremy-Hunt well in advance I had heard of this terrible family event in his life and asked if he would be happy to talk about it. He said yes. My view was that it would aid understanding of him if he talked about it. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I asked the questions clumsily. But I would never have entered such difficult private space without the permission of the interviewee. Sorry though to have upset so many of you.
The one-time Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart made much of the fact that he would refuse to serve in a Boris Johnson government.
Now David Gauke, the justice secretary, is saying much the same thing. This comes after Mr Johnson's ConservativeHome interview (see this earlier post).
NEW: Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has written to his counterpart in government, Steve Barclay, calling on him to “set the record straight” in Parliament today over Boris Johnson’s "misleading" Brexit claims. The letter comes ahead of Brexit questions in the House of Commons this morning.
In the letter he highlights five claims made by the former London mayor that he says do not stand up to scrutiny:
- That the UK can rely on GATT 24 to deliver tariff free trade in the event of no deal
- That the UK can cherry pick the Withdrawal Agreement
- That there are existing technological solutions to the Northern Ireland border
- That Parliament would support a no deal
- That we can have a standstill transition without a withdrawal agreement
Mr Starmer said:
You will know as well as I do that these claims are not based in reality. As Secretary of State and a supporter of Boris Johnson’s campaign, you have an opportunity – and I believe a duty – to set the record straight and present an honest assessment of the difficult choices facing the next Prime Minister. I’m writing to ask that you do this at this morning’s Brexit questions in the House of Commons. If these claims are not corrected, then I believe the next administration will repeat the mistakes of its predecessor, with false promises, empty rhetoric and unrealistic red lines.
In some non-Brexit news, a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to "net zero" by 2050 has become law, making the UK the first major economy to legislate to end its contribution to global warming, the government said.
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signed the order paper which makes the law come into force on Thursday, after it passed the Commons and Lords this week.
The new target amends the previous goal to cut climate pollution by 80 per cent by 2050.
Professor Sam Fankhauser, director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said the announcement was "tremendous news", describing it as an act of "true international leadership".
It is significant that the new legislation was passed unopposed in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, indicating the extent of political consensus on the need for urgent action to tackle climate change. This new target will provide a clear signal to investors about the direction of government policy and should help to unlock billions of pounds of investment in the transition to a zero-carbon economy. However, the UK’s political leaders now need to focus on putting in place the policies to realise the target. At present, the UK is not on target to meet its targets for emissions reductions by the late 2020s and early 2030s. Much stronger policies are needed to accelerate the phase out of gas central heating and fossil fuel powered vehicles, for instance.
Labour is also distracted from Brexit as it faces criticism from its own MPs for a decision to lift Chris Williamson's suspension from the party.
Derby North MP Mr Williamson was suspended in February following his comments that the party had been "too apologetic" in response to criticism over its handling of antisemitism allegations.
Veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge described the decision to lift his suspension as "appalling" and "outrageous".
She called it a "cynical move done on the day that we all got our forms to say 'did we want to become Labour MPs again', and having him suspended meant that he could not become a Labour MP".
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