May refuses unconditional support for next PM

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Theresa May has refused to promise unconditional support for her successor’s Brexit plan.

Asked if she would back whichever Brexit outcome the next prime minister achieves, including a no-deal Brexit, she said that amounted to agreeing to “whatever happens in future”.

Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will be announced as the winner of the Tory Party leadership race on 23 July.

Both men have said they would try to renegotiate a deal with the EU.

Speaking to journalists on her official flight to the G20 summit in Osaka, Mrs May said: “It is important that we deliver a Brexit that is good for the British people.

“It will be up to my successor to take this forward. To find the majority in Parliament that I was not able to find and to deliver the decision of the British people in 2016.”

Mr Johnson has said the UK must leave on 31 October “deal or no deal”, but that the chances of a no-deal Brexit happening are a “million to one”.

However, in an interview with Conservative Home, Mr Johnson said every member of his cabinet would have to be “reconciled” with the policy of leaving on 31 October – with or without a deal.

Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt said if the UK got to October without the prospect of a deal, “we will leave without a deal”.

But he also called the Brexit date a “fake deadline” that could trigger a general election if Parliament rejects a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal exit would see the UK leave the customs union and single market overnight and start trading with the EU on World Trade Organization rules.

The EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, despite this featuring in the plans of both candidates.

Will Theresa May be a backseat driver?

By John Pienaar, BBC deputy political editor

Theresa May arrived in Osaka something of a leader in limbo – an outgoing prime minister beset by incoming crises at home and abroad.

So far she’s been conspicuously trying to stay above the fray of the Tory leadership contest.

She’s told no-one who she voted for in narrowing the field down to two; she’s taken no sides.

On the RAF Voyager flight into Osaka, she gave journalists a hint that she has more to contribute before this saga ends, assuming, of course, it ever does.

The prime minister refused to pledge her support for whatever outcome may take shape under the next leader.

Read more from John Pienaar

The leadership rivals have been unveiling pledges including on education and on immigration as their campaign continues.

Mr Johnson has promised to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system if he becomes prime minister, while Mr Hunt said he would cancel the tuition fee debts of young entrepreneurs who start businesses and employ people.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Are the keys to Number 10 in the distance?

Both candidates are meeting the public in the Isle of Wight, ahead of hustings for party members in Bournemouth later.

On Monday, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said “a dozen or so” Conservative MPs could support a vote of no confidence to stop a no-deal Brexit.

But Mrs May said she believed it would be wrong for Conservatives to vote against the government on a confidence motion, saying that defeat on such a vote could lead to a general election.

Compare the candidates' policies and careers

Select a topic and a candidate to find out more

BREXIT

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Would leave the EU with no deal, but it's not his preferred option. – Wants changes to the Irish backstop and proposes sending a new negotiating team to Brussels. – Wants to make changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and thinks it's possible to get them done by 31 October, but has not ruled out an extension.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Wants to leave on 31 October, the deadline for Brexit set by the EU, with or without a deal. – Says he wants to leave on the basis of a new withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU, with the backstop removed and replaced with “alternative arrangements”. – If this is not possible, he says he would ask the EU to agree to a “standstill period” during which the UK could negotiate a free trade deal with the bloc. – Failing this, he says the UK must be prepared to leave on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms if required, and the country would “get ready for that outcome”. – Says he would demonstrate “creative ambiguity” over when the UK will pay the £39bn ‘divorce’ payment it is due to give the EU as part of the negotiated deal. He has also said the money should be retained until there is “greater clarity about the way forward”.

TAX AND SPENDING

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into the next Silicon Valley, a "hub of innovation". – Pledged to slash business taxes to the lowest in Europe to attract firms to Britain after Brexit and reduce corporation tax. – Wants to boost defence spending by £15bn over the next five years.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Pledges to cut income tax for people earning more than £50,000 by raising the 40% tax threshold to £80,000. – Plans to pay for the reported £9.6bn annual cost of the cut in part from a pot set aside by the Treasury for a possible no-deal Brexit, and in part by increasing employee National Insurance payments. – However he says his tax proposals will begin by “lifting thresholds for those on lowest pay”. – Pledges to “find the money” to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers over an as-yet unspecified timetable. – Promises to speed up the delivery of ‘full fibre’ internet connection, with the super-fast service available to all by 2025, eight years earlier than currently planned.

HEALTH AND EDUCATION

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Mental health support in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content. – A cut in interest rate paid on tuition fees. – Long term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession in return for a guarantee that no one leaves the education system without a "rigorous qualification" sufficient to work up to at least the average salary.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Promises to raise spending on secondary school pupils to £5,000 each. – Called the funding gap between some schools in cities compared to those in rural areas a “disturbing reality”. – Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. – Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party “national consensus”.

CAREER

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– The foreign secretary campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum, but has since been reborn as a Brexiteer. – He even suggested, to widespread criticism, that the EU was like the Soviet Union. However, he has said his party would be committing “political suicide” if it tried to push through a no-deal Brexit. – An MP for South West Surrey since 2005, Mr Hunt was made culture secretary under the coalition government in 2010 and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics before becoming health secretary. – In 2018, he became the longest-serving health minister, and arguably one of the most controversial, since the NHS was created, completing six years in the role. During his tenure, he clashed with unions over contracts for junior doctors, who took part in a series of walkouts in 2015.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– The 55-year Eton and Oxford-educated former political journalist has coveted the top job for many years, but was beaten to No 10 by his contemporary David Cameron. – After eight years as mayor of London, he returned to Parliament as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2016. – A leading Brexiteer, Mr Johnson had been at odds with Theresa May’s Brexit vision for some time before he eventually quit as foreign secretary in protest last year. – Polls suggest he is a popular figure with members of the wider Conservative party.

The prime minister told reporters: “I believe there should be a Conservative government in the UK because a Conservative government would be better for the people of the UK.”

‘Grossly irresponsible’

In an attempt to block a no-deal Brexit, Conservative Dominic Grieve and Labour’s Dame Margaret Beckett have tabled an amendment that would stop funding going to certain government departments if the UK leaves without a deal – unless it has been specifically approved by MPs.

If a vote in the Commons on Tuesday is successful, it would have the potential to cut off cash to four Whitehall departments – education, housing; communities and local government; international development; and work and pensions.

Under parliamentary procedure, MPs have to approve government spending, known as estimates, twice a year.

A spokesman for the prime minister said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to seek to stop a no-deal Brexit by blocking government spending.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

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