Former Tory Chief Whip and leadership contender Mark Harper says rival Boris Johnson should ditch his Halloween Brexit deadline because it could make Nigel Farage even stronger
- Former Tory Chief Whip said sticking to October Brexit date would boost Farage
- Mark Harper said the only ‘credible’ plan was to postpone Brexit and to fight for an agreement with Brussels but leave deal or no deal by May 2020 at the latest
- Mr Harper said he alone of 11 declared candidates had a ‘credible’ Brexit plan
Warning: Leadership rival Mark Harper
Boris Johnson is being told by a rival Tory leadership contender to ditch his Halloween Brexit deadline – or it will risk making Nigel Farage even stronger.
Former Tory Chief Whip Mark Harper claimed sticking to the undeliverable October 31 exit date would only boost the Brexit Party boss when it failed to materialise.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, he said that the only ‘credible’ plan was to postpone Brexit, fight for an agreement with Brussels but leave – deal or no deal – by May 2020 at the latest. Taking a swipe at leadership favourite Boris, Mr Harper added: ‘You don’t beat Nigel Farage by trying to be the Brexit Party, you don’t beat him by out-Faraging him – you beat him by governing and delivering on your promises.’
Mr Harper, former Chief Whip under David Cameron, claimed he alone of 11 declared candidates had a ‘credible’ Brexit plan involving a ‘short focused extension’ beyond October but with the promise that deal or no deal, the UK would leave before the May 2020 local elections.
He said: ‘One of the lessons of the European elections and Peterborough by-election is politicians should only make promises they can keep.
‘I know what people want to hear but I am not going to tell people what they want to hear if I don’t think it is credible.’
Boris Johnson is being told by a rival Tory leadership contender to ditch his Halloween Brexit deadline
As well as Mr Johnson, fellow heavyweight Brexiteer leadership contender Dominic Raab insists the UK must leave by October 31 with or without a deal.
Mr Harper, who was sacked by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister in 2016, is a self-confessed ‘underdog’ in the leadership race. But he insisted he was in it to win and had the necessary eight Tory MP backers to enter the contest formally this week.
Last week, Mr Johnson moved to scotch claims he would support a second Brexit referendum.
He told a private hustings in Westminster on Wednesday: ‘The first referendum campaign was a pretty bruising experience. It was a tough experience for us all.’
He added: ‘I don’t want to see our country go through that again. It was deeply toxic. A second referendum is anti-democratic.’