Latest: The final five candidates vying to be the next British Prime Minister took part in a BBC debate this evening.
Candidates clashed over Brexit escape routes, with four of the five willing to accept a no-deal Brexit, Rory Stewart was the only one to rule it out entirely.
Insisting it would not be possible to negotiate a new deal by October 31, Mr Stewart said the existing Withdrawal Agreement was the only way out of the EU.
Flagging up how all the candidates had voted for Theresa May’s deal, he called on them to do so again, saying “let’s get on with it, let’s vote it through, let’s get it done”.
Ruling out no-deal Brexit entirely, he said: “In the end we’re in a room with a door, and the door is called Parliament, and I am the only person here trying to find the key to the door.
“Everybody else is staring at the wall shouting ‘Believe in Britain’.”
But Michael Gove said MPs could not just be presented with the same “cold porridge” of Mrs May’s deal for a fourth time.
He said: “We’ve run into that door three times already, Rory – we’ve got to have a different route out.
“We need to have a different approach.”
Frontrunner Boris Johnson claimed that leaving on October 31 was “eminently feasible”, agreeing with Sajid Javid that there must be a deadline.
But Jeremy Hunt and Mr Gove both stressed how the date was arbitrary and getting a deal was more important than sticking rigidly to a date – although Mr Gove stressed he would guarantee leaving the EU before the end of 2019.
In response to a question about the Irish backstop, Mr Javid said he could solve the border issue using “existing technology” – although BBC presenter Emily Maitlis pointed out that the existence of the technology to do so is in doubt.
He said: “It is perfectly possible to have an open border with two different customs arrangements on either side of the border using existing technology.
“Obviously it will take time to put that in place, it will cost money.”
Mr Johnson also said the issue could be solved during the implementation period.
“You can solve the questions of how to keep goods flowing freely across that border whilst the UK comes out of the EU.
“You can solve that issue during the implementation period whilst we negotiate the free trade deal.”
Boris Johnson has confirmed his status as the favourite to be the next British prime minister with a commanding victory in the second round of voting in the Tory leadership race.
Former British Brexit secretary Dominic Raab was eliminated from the race, while UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid survived by a single vote.
But there was another overwhelming victory for Mr Johnson, who secured 126 votes – 80 ahead of his nearest rival Jeremy Hunt on 46.
Michael Gove was in third place on 41 votes, while Rory Stewart was on 37.
Candidates needed 33 votes to remain in the race – the exact number picked up by Mr Javid.
Mr Raab’s hopes of replacing Theresa May in Downing Street were dashed after he secured just 30 votes.
The remaining candidates will take part in a BBC debate tonight before further votes tomorrow and on Thursday will whittle the field down to a final two.
With Mr Johnson appearing certain of a place in the final two, the contest has become a battle for the right to a spot alongside him in the ballot of 160,000 Tory members who will choose the next party leader and British prime minister.
- Press Association
Update 5.30pm: Conservative MPs have voted in the second bout of the contest to select Britain’s next prime minister.
Candidates need to gain at least 33 votes from MPs to remain in the race to reach the final run-off, which will see some 160,000 Tory members select the next leader. The results will be known at about 6pm.
Meanwhile, candidates including frontrunner Boris Johnson will later take part in a TV debate.
Here’s the latest:
Earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May, asked who she voted for in the Tory leadership ballot, told reporters: “As I said last week, none of your business.”
Candidates need 33 votes in today’s second ballot to remain in the Tory leadership race.
Rory Stewart picked up just 19 votes in the first round but his campaign has gathered momentum and a source close to him told the Press Association: “I think we’re there, but it’s tight.”
Sajid Javid got 23 votes in the first round, and a campaign source acknowledged it was “close” and they were “making no predictions” about what would happen.
Both Cabinet ministers have publicly said they are confident of securing the numbers needed to remain in the race.
An ally of former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who got 27 votes, said they were “quietly confident” he would pass the threshold.
- Press Association