TORY leadership contender Jeremy Hunt has said if he becomes prime minister he will decide at the end of September whether to continue Brexit talks with Brussels or go for a no-deal withdrawal option.
The foreign secretary also confirmed he would cancel August leave for Whitehall officials involved in Brexit preparations if necessary.
Mr Hunt said he would launch an all-out diplomatic effort to cut a new deal with the EU if he beat Boris Johnson in the race for Downing Street.
He said he would make a decision on Brexit talks by September 30, ahead of the withdrawal date of October 31.
The cabinet minister said: ‘It is important that the EU knows that we will do what it takes to make a success of a no-deal Brexit.
‘We won’t blink as a country. That no-deal Brexit is not going to be an opportunity for them to successfully turn the screws on our country.
‘I will start engaging with the EU straight away, throughout August.
‘Then, when we have published our plan for a deal we think we can get through parliament by the end of August, we will start formal negotiations in September.’
He added: ‘There is a hard deadline in what I have said, by the end of September, I, as prime minister, will make a judgment as to whether there is a realistic prospect of a deal that can get through parliament in the short-term.
‘And, if my judgment is that is not the case, talks will stop and we will put our heads down and focus on no-deal.’
Mr Hunt’s remarks on possibly cancelling summer leave for civil servants provoked criticism.
The foreign secretary said: ‘All August leave will be cancelled unless I have a signed letter from the relevant permanent secretary saying that all preparations in his or her department are on time and on track.’
However, Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior managers and civil servants, said: ‘Frankly, it’s ludicrous.
‘It is just macho posturing with Boris Johnson. He is just trying to outdo Boris on who can look the toughest.
‘Of the 400,000 civil servants, 95 per cent are not even involved with Brexit.’
Momentum activists in bid to unseat Boris Johnson
MOMENTUM is vowing to flood Boris Johnson’s west London constituency with hundreds of activists in a bid to unseat the Tory leadership front-runner at the next general election.
The left-wing grassroots group, which helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership, is planning a ‘mass canvassing event’ in Uxbridge and South Ruislip ahead of the announcement on July 23 of the Conservative leadership race winner.
It says it will follow up with further ‘unseat’ events over the next year, as well as a social media operation targeting swing voters in the constituency.
The move reflects a belief that Mr Johnson — who saw his majority cut by more than half at the 2017 general election to 5,034 — could be vulnerable the next time the country goes to the polls.
If they are successful — and Mr Johnson wins the Tory leadership contest — he could become the first British prime minister to lose his seat while in office.
The group pointed to its efforts in the recent Peterborough by-election when Labour held off a strong challenge from the Brexit Party as an example of what could be achieved.
‘At the Peterborough by-election last month, Labour unexpectedly beat the Brexit Party after Momentum mobilised more than 1,000 activists to knock on doors and make phone calls,’ said Becky Boumelha of Momentum’s national co-ordinating group.
‘Now we’re launching a campaign to make sure Johnson goes down in history as the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat.
‘At the last election we slashed his majority in half, and now even Tories admit his seat is vulnerable to a surge in young voters at the next election.’
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate Ali Milani said: ‘Ever since Boris Johnson was parachuted into Uxbridge and South Ruislip, he’s neglected his constituents and concerned himself only with his own career.’