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People's Daily Online

British PM candidates hold final leadership debate with focus on Brexit

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 13:18, July 18, 2019

LONDON, July 17 -- British Prime Minister hopefuls Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt stated their approaches to handling Brexit when they made their final bids for the leadership of the governing Conservative Party on Wednesday.

The two contenders, Britain's former and current foreign secretaries, finally completed a nation-wide round of 16 election hustings with a crowded rally in the British capital.

Johnson, in his signature flamboyant arm-waving style, ruled out any prospect of an election pact with any of the other political parties, including the newly-formed Brexit Party that has attracted a following from thousands of Conservative members.

He said the Conservative Party should not do deals to keep Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.

But Johnson would not be drawn on whether he would suspend the British parliament as a means of achieving Brexit, or whether he would call an early general election.

Referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who have voted for rival parties in recent elections, Johnson told the audience that "we are stirring down the barrel."

He repeated the message he has given at the previous 15 hustings that Britain will leave the European Parliament on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.

Questioned about messages from Brussels that the Brexit deal brokered by the current Prime Minister Theresa May is not up for negotiation, Johnson said that "where's the will there's a way."

"We need to get our mojo back as a party," he added.

"If there is a refusal (by Brussels) to compromise, if they won't change a dot or a comma of the withdrawal agreement, then obviously we have no choice to come out on different terms and that's what we'll do," he told the cheering crowds.

He also said that when Britain leaves the EU, the country will be able, for the first time in 45 years, to champion trade deals around the world.

In his final presentation, Hunt said it would not be right to suspend parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. But he said if he becomes prime minister he would deliver a budget in September, which would include preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Hunt outlined his four priorities after Brexit has been resolved.

He said he will fire up the economy to be the most pro-business in Europe, turning Britain into the next silicone valley. Hunt also said he would increase Britain's defense budget, and end illiteracy in schools.

He said he wants to attract more young people into the Conservative Party, so they can take part in the next general election.

Hunt told the audience that if Johnson wins, "it would be a huge honor" to serve as one of his front-line ministers.

According to opinion polls, Johnson is on target to succeed May as Britain's next prime minister.

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