Justine Greening: Tory leadership battle ‘not in interests of country’

Boris Johnson and Theresa May should strike a deal to form a “united leadership” for the country and the Tory party, a Cabinet minister has suggested as Conservatives jostled to replace the Prime Minister.

Brexit campaign frontman Johnson and the Remain-backing Home Secretary are seen as the two leading candidates to replace David Cameron at the top of the party and take the keys to Number 10.

But International Development Secretary Justine Greening said a leadership battle now would not be in the interests of the country and urged the pair to strike a deal to avoid a contest.

She said a “strong Conservative government” should have Johnson at its centre to recognise the outcome of the European Union referendum.

But May would also have to be at the heart of the administration as the country works on tackling issues around migration and freedom of movement.

Writing on the Conservative Home website Ms Greening said: “A leadership contest now is not in the interests of our country. It will mean our party focuses inward - at the very time our country most needs us to focus outward.

“Instead of a leadership contest which could take weeks and months, Boris Johnson and Theresa May should agree to forge a deal which means they are a united leadership, under one or the other: a united leadership that for the sake of unity I hope the rest of our party could support.”

She added that if Mr Johnson and Mrs May were unable to agree, another pair of MPs from either side of the referendum divide could step forward to “bring Britain back together”.

Cameron said he would like his successor to be in place by the time of the Tory party conference in October.

The first potential contender in the Tory leadership contest has broken cover, with Liam Fox admitting he is “thinking about” standing to replace Cameron.

The Brexit-backing former defence secretary made his comments after former leader Iain Duncan Smith said the new Tory prime minister must come from the Leave camp.

Duncan Smith’s hard-line stance would rule out May for the top job, as she is positioned as the “Stop Boris” candidate by MPs loyal to Cameron.

“Whoever takes up that job... it would be very, very difficult for the public who have voted for leaving the European Union to find that they then had a prime minister who actually was opposed to leaving the European Union,” Duncan Smith told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.

“There was a clear decision, and what has to happen is delivery on that, and somebody who has been involved in that clearly has to be the case, because the Government itself had a view... which was to Remain, so now we need to change that position.”

Broken promise

Ian Duncan Smith denied the Leave side had broken promises to switch £350 million a week from Brussels to the NHS as he suggested something like half that amount could go to the health service.

“It is not a promise broken, I never said that through the course of the election, what I said was we will be able to spend the lion’s share of that money,” he said.

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