LONDON • British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that it would be "political suicide" for Britain to pursue a no-deal Brexit, becoming the most senior figure vying to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May to rule it out and drawing a battle line with rival contenders.
Mr Hunt's remarks put him at odds with most other candidates including the front runner, his predecessor as foreign secretary, Mr Boris Johnson, who has said Britain should quit the European Union, deal or no deal, by end-October.
Mrs May has announced plans to step down after repeatedly failing to secure Parliament's approval for her deal to leave the EU, setting up a contest in her ruling Conservative Party to succeed her in the coming weeks.
That contest could determine how or even whether Britain leaves the EU, or whether it would face a new national election with its major political parties divided and shaken by Brexit.
Mrs May's spokesman said it was now up to others to break the deadlock over Brexit, declining to comment on the proposals made so far by those seeking to succeed her.
Pitching himself in contrast to Mr Johnson and others who insist a no-deal Brexit must remain on the table, Mr Hunt said any such move would be blocked by lawmakers and trigger a national election.
"Trying to deliver no deal through a general election is not a solution; it is political suicide," Mr Hunt wrote in yesterday's Daily Telegraph.
"A different deal is, therefore, the only solution - and what I will pursue if I am leader."
Meanwhile, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse on Monday threw his hat into the ring, bringing the total number of declared contenders for the party leadership to 10.
A former deputy London mayor to Mr Johnson, the 52-year-old is running as a Brexit unity candidate, having headed up the so-called Malthouse Compromise strategy designed to keep the party together and get a deal over the line.
Under the party's rules for picking a new leader, Conservative lawmakers will select a short list of candidates and put them to the party's members for a vote.
The party is deeply split over Brexit. Many of its lawmakers oppose a no-deal exit, which businesses say would be catastrophic, while party activists are widely seen as more willing to support leaving with no agreement.
The Conservative Party had a disastrous showing in European elections at the weekend, losing most of its support to the new Brexit Party, which topped the polls while urging a swift no-deal exit from the EU.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE