How the tory rivals for Prime Minister reckon they can fix Brexit

Ten Conservatives are in the running to succeed Theresa May as UK prime minister. Each has their own vision of how to fix Brexit: All want to deliver on the referendum result of 2016, most want to renegotiate the divorce agreement, and two say the only way out is with a no-deal departure.  

From Thursday, Conservative MPs will whittle down the field to just two in a series of votes. The final pair are then put to a postal ballot of the party’s 160 000 members, with the new prime minister to be announced in the week of July 22.

Boris Johnson

Who?  The favourite to succeed May, Johnson, 54, quit as foreign secretary last July over her Brexit deal. He was the highest profile campaigner in the 2016 referendum, and used to be London mayor.

On Brexit: He has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc on October 31 with or without a deal. He wants to renegotiate May’s agreement and has threatened to withhold the £39bn divorce bill if the EU doesn’t improve the terms. He is prepared to Leave without a deal if it’s the only way to deliver Brexit.

Other policies: Johnson advocates cutting business taxes and red tape. He’s proposed tax cuts for higher earners too, according to the Telegraph. He also wants to boost transport infrastructure and broadband, and raise spending on schools and the police.

Also: Born in New York, Johnson gave up his American citizenship in 2016. He’s published books on the Romans, London and wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Who? Gove, 51, has held Cabinet positions including education secretary, justice secretary, and most recently, environment secretary. In the last leadership election, he was going to run Johnson's campaign before declaring he'd run himself. He was one of the figureheads of the Leave campaign.

On Brexit: He wants to renegotiate the deal, to put a “full stop” on the Irish border backstop. He says a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t be in Britain’s interests, and because Parliament is opposed, it would prompt an election that Labour could win. He’s open to delaying Brexit by a day, a week, or “whatever is required” to get it done.

Other policies:  Gove has said EU citizens currently in the UK should be able to apply for citizenship for free. He has proposed scrapping value-added tax and replacing it with a simpler sales tax.

Also: He admitted to using cocaine on several occasions when he was a journalist, but deeply regrets it now.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, U.K. foreign secretary returns to his

Who?  Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, 52, has been in the Cabinet since 2010. He was the UK’s longest-serving health secretary. He voted Remain in 2016 but now is a “born again Brexiteer.”

On Brexit: He wants to renegotiate. He’s open to a delay as a better alternative to no-deal, which he says would prompt a  general election in which the Tories could be “annihilated.”

Other Policies:  Promises to “turbo-charge” the economy after Brexit to make it “the most high-tech, greenest, most pro-enterprise, pro-business economy in Europe.”

Also: Hunt is independently wealthy, earning about £15m in 2017 from the sale of an educational listings company he founded, Hotcourses. He once mistakenly referred to his Chinese wife as Japanese.

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab

Who? Raab, 45, quit as Brexit secretary in November in protest after four months in the job. He’s a lawyer by training and campaigned to Leave.

On Brexit: He wants to negotiate an exit from the Irish backstop and will be “clear’’ with the EU that if that isn’t possible, the UK is prepared to leave without a deal in October.  He is prepared to suspend Parliament to pursue no-deal if necessary. 

Other policies: Raab proposes raising the threshold for National Insurance contributions and taking 1 percentage point off income tax, before cutting it further. Promises an early budget to give business confidence the UK can weather any disruptions caused by Brexit.

Also: Raab has a black belt in karate.

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid

Who? A former Deutsche Bank trader, Javid, 49, has been an MP since 2010. Promoted to the Cabinet in 2014 as culture secretary, he then held the briefs for business and communities, before being promoted to home secretary last year. He voted Remain, despite holding Euroskeptic views.

On Brexit: He wants to renegotiate. He would choose a no-deal Brexit over no exit at all, but favors leaving with an agreement. He rejects extending negotiations beyond October 31 and would continue no-deal preparations, including a new budget.

Other Policies: Javid has pledged to cut taxes, saying that “simpler, flatter taxes should be a priority for any government.” Opposes “arbitrary” immigration targets.

Also: Javid is one of five sons of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, and his father was a bus driver. He has a portrait of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in his office. 

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock

Who? Hancock, 40, is the youngest candidate and has been an MP since 2010. He’s served as health secretary since July, and before that was culture secretary. He’s the “optimist’’ candidate, offering a “fresh start and a fresh face,” he says. He voted Remain.

On Brexit: He is open to renegotiating with the EU, but says the new leader also has to be “brutally honest about the trade-offs.” He has a plan to improve the Irish backstop. He says no-deal is not a “credible threat” because Parliament won’t allow it, and he’s vowed he wouldn’t suspend Parliament to pursue a hard exit. He’s also willing to talk with Labour members of Parliament.

Other Policies: Promised to keep debt falling as a share of the economy, while delivering £5bn of tax cuts to business to spur investment. He would almost double spending on research and development.

Also: Hancock is a keen amateur jockey and is the only member of the Cabinet to have his own app. “I love people,” he said at his campaign launch. “If you look inside people’s hearts you will find something of value."

Mark Harper  

Who? Harper, 49, is the only declared candidate not to have served in May’s government. An MP since 2005, he held a number of junior ministerial posts in former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, and was chief whip until the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which he voted Remain.

On Brexit: He wants to renegotiate and advocates a “short, focused extension" beyond Oct. 31 to give a new leader some extra time. If the U.K. can’t get a deal through Parliament, it should leave without one.

Other Policies: Cutting taxes and boosting spending on education, though he told the Telegraph that candidates shouldn’t throw around “eye-catching spending and tax promises” without balancing the books first.

Also: Co-chairs “Women to Win,” which aims to get more women elected to Parliament.

Esther McVey

Esther McVey

Who? The former TV presenter quit as work and pensions secretary in November in protest at May’s Brexit deal. McVey, 51, is  Brexiteer and spearheaded the Ladies for Leave campaign.

On Brexit:  McVey says May’s deal is dead, and there’s no point trying to seek another compromise. Brexit must be delivered and the only way to do that is without a deal. She says she will use all the tools available to her to take Britain out of the bloc, hinting she would consider suspending Parliament if necessary.

Other policies: McVey has pledged to cut aid to 2010 levels, freeing up 4 billion pounds for education spending, and 3 billion pounds for the police. She also wants to address the U.K.’s housing shortage. She’s been criticized by members of her own party for saying parents should be able to remove their children from classes that teach them about gay relationships.

Also: McVey spent her early years in foster care.

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart

Who? Stewart, 46, is one of the newest members of May’s Cabinet, having been appointed international development secretary on May 1. He served as a deputy governor in Iraq following the 2003 allied invasion. He voted Remain.

On Brexit: He says there’s no hope of renegotiating May’s deal, and would accept delaying Brexit again to get a deal through. He rejects both a second referendum and a no-deal Brexit, which he describes as “not actually a destination, it’s a failure to reach a destination.” He would also look to change the political declaration on the future relationship with the EU and try to get Labour MPs onside.

Other policies: Once Brexit is out of the way, Stewart has said he wants to get on to dealing with “climate, health, education and all the thousand small injustices of daily life which very sadly are not being addressed.” He pledges more resources for schools and the police, investment in regional infrastructure and increasing spending on research and development. He would sell off the government’s stake in RBS.

Also: Stewart once tutored Prince William and Prince Harry. He’s walked across Asia, including a 32-day trek across Afghanistan that he then turned into a best-selling book. In May, he admitted in a Telegraph interview to taking a puff on an opium pipe while walking across Iran.

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom

Who? Leadsom, 56, was the last Cabinet minister to quit before the premier announced she was stepping down herself. After reaching the final run-off against May in the 2016 contest, she pulled out after she suggested that having children made her a better candidate. A prominent Leave campaigner, she was environment secretary, and then leader of the House of Commons.

On Brexit:  Leadsom takes the EU at its word that the deal can’t be renegotiated so advocates a so-called managed no-deal exit instead.  She would enshrine the uncontroversial parts of the existing deal in law, ramp up preparations to help business and lead a delegation of UK ministers to talk with EU leaders to agree to measures both sides will accept. 

Other Policies:  Told Conservative MPs that they need to sort out a new policy on social care, “the issue that will affect generations to come.” She proposes a cross-party commission to tackle it. She would sign up to a target to cut the U.K.’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Also: Leadsom told the Times she traveled to Greece in her teenage years with her sisters, and they were robbed on the way. They ended up sleeping in the sand and taking turns to wash dishes for money.

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