Boris Johnson is gearing up for a huge Brexit battle today as the Tories prepare to install him as their new leader.
Barring a last-minute shock, Mr Johnson will be named as the new Conservative chief at 11.45am following a bruising six-week contest against rival Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Johnson refused to answer questions from reporters as he arrived at his campaign base this morning, merely saying it was ‘all to play for’.
He is already plotting his next move, with allies determined to forge ahead with multi-billion pound promises to cut taxes – even if it means increasing government borrowing.
However, Mr Johnson is also facing a potentially catastrophic Tory mutiny as MPs mobilise against his ‘do or die’ vow to secure Brexit by Halloween – even if it means crashing out without an agreement.
Justice Secretary David Gauke – one of at least half-a-dozen ministers who have said they will quit rather than serve under Mr Johnson – issued a stark warning this morning that Parliament will find a way to block No Deal.
After Sir Alan Duncan quit as Foreign Office minister yesterday in an abortive effort to force a confidence vote to block Mr Johnson becoming PM, the leadership front runner embarked on a charm offensive.
He held talks with Chancellor Philip Hammond and Mr Gauke last night, but while discussions were ‘friendly’ they did not back down on their opposition to No Deal.
Barring a last-minute shock, Boris Johnson (pictured in London today) is set to be named as the Conservative Party’s new leader this morning
Mr Johnson held talks with Chancellor Philip Hammond (right) and David Gauke (left), but while discussions were ‘friendly’ they did not back down on their opposition to No Deal.
Mr Johnson is expected to emerge victorious from a bruising six-week contest against Jeremy Hunt (pictured out running in London this morning)
Sources in Mr Johnson’s camp are predicting he will secure more than 60 per cent of the vote, giving him a ‘free hand’ to sack his enemies and steer the Tories on a new course.
He has planned a short acceptance speech in which he will repeat his campaign pledge to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, and urge his party to turn its guns on Jeremy Corbyn.
But he is also expected to make an appeal for party unity following a fractious campaign which has seen Tory Remainers vow to bring down his government if he tries to pursue a No Deal exit.
Yesterday, Sir Alan – Mr Johnson’s former deputy – dramatically quit as Foreign Office minister in an apparent bid to prevent him becoming PM.
Sir Alan, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, invoked the Queen as he attempted to force a confidence vote in the Commons today – but the move was ruled out by the Speaker John Bercow.
International development secretary Rory Stewart also informed Mr Johnson yesterday that he would be resigning from the Cabinet before he takes power, following the lead set by Philip Hammond and justice secretary David Gauke.
Mr Stewart indicated he would join the band of Remainer rebels on the Tory backbenches, saying: ‘There is a majority of two, and I have at least three friends.’
Mr Gauke told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he believed there were ‘parliamentary mechanisms’ that could prevent No Deal which would ‘not necessarily’ involve bringing down a Johnson administration.
He stressed that he would not vote against a Tory government in a motion of no confidence if it was heading towards a no-deal Brexit.
But Mr Gauke warned: ‘There is a clear majority in the House of Commons that doesn’t want to leave the EU without a deal; I think that will become very clear in the autumn.’
Milkshakes tax ‘bomb’ left by May
Theresa May pressed ahead with plans for a tax on milkshakes last night – even though Boris Johnson has warned it will be scrapped if he gets into No 10.
In one of her final acts, the Prime Minister published proposals in a green paper to extend the levy on sugary drinks – despite warnings from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they should be put on hold until a new PM is in place.
A source said: ‘Matt’s view was that the paper should be held so it is not seen as her thing and then killed off by Boris.’
Mr Johnson has pledged to stop the rollout of ‘sin taxes’, specifically warning that one on milkshakes would ‘clobber’ the poor.
In all, up to a dozen ministers are expected to jump ship in the next 36 hours before Mr Johnson officially becomes PM tomorrow afternoon.
Allies of Mr Johnson insist he is determined to ensure his premiership is not only about Brexit.
They want to push a new insurance system for social care, boost schools funding and increase the higher tax threshold to £80,000.
During the campaign Mr Johnson made spending pledges that have been calculated at more than £26billion – the estimated headroom Mr Hammond left in the public finances to account for Brexit disruption.
He wants to raise the national Insurance threshold to £12,500 to help low earners, which would cost around £11billion, increase the minimum wage, and cut stamp duty.
But supporters of Mr Johnson told the Telegraph he would press ahead with key policies by borrowing if necessary.
‘We are talking about a fiscal loosening of less than 1 per cent of total public spending. It would do a lot to get things moving for the middle classes, to get them spending more money,’ one aide said.
A former minister in Mr Johnson’s camp added: ‘In order to honour Boris’s spending pledges, the next budget is going to have to put a temporary freeze on deficit reduction.
‘Of course it is important to continue fixing the roof but there is going to have to be some flexibility there to give the economy the post-Brexit boost that it needs.’
On the eve of what is likely to be a dramatic few days, former prime ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major warned Mr Johnson that pursuing a No Deal Brexit would end in disaster.
Newly elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson also predicted she could become prime minister if Mr Johnson is forced to call a snap election this year.
If Mr Johnson is elected as Tory leader today he will formally become prime minister tomorrow.
Mrs May will take a final session of PMQs in the Commons before travelling to Buckingham palace to inform the Queen of her resignation.
Whitehall sources said that, despite the government’s slender majority, Her Majesty is then expected to send for Mr Johnson.
The former foreign secretary will then begin an immediate Cabinet reshuffle.
Casualties are expected to include Mrs May’s deputy David Lidington, the business secretary Greg Clark and the Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley.
Mr Johnson is then preparing to make a Commons statement setting out his programme for government on Thursday, just hours before MPs break up for the long summer recess.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who is expected to join the Cabinet, last night played down the prospect of a serious mutiny against the new leader by Tory MPs.
He added: ‘I think the number of troublemakers will be relatively few because it will be so obviously self-indulgent.’ But attitudes among Tory MPs opposed to a No Deal Brexit appeared to be hardening last night.
Mr Stewart revealed that he had been invited for talks with Mr Johnson, but had told him he would rather quit his Cabinet job than serve in a Government prepared to contemplate a No Deal Brexit. Earlier, Sir Alan resigned with a warning that Brexit had placed a ‘dark cloud’ over the country.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson’s former deputy Alan Duncan (pictured) dramatically quit as Foreign Office minister in an apparent bid to prevent him becoming PM
International development secretary Rory Stewart (pictured) also informed Mr Johnson yesterday that he would be resigning from the Cabinet before he takes power, following the lead set by Philip Hammond and justice secretary David Gauke
Boris Johnson wants his party to unite behind him so they can turn their guns on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured)
The minister, who once described Mr Johnson as a ‘circus act’, wrote to Mr Bercow proposing a Commons vote today on Mr Johnson’s acceptability as PM.
He wrote: ‘This is the first time in our parliamentary history that the prime minister of a minority government has changed in mid-term.
‘Thus the normal assumption that the succession is automatic cannot be said to apply, and his ability to command a majority in the House should arguably be tested before the Prime Minister can safely advise the Queen who should succeed her.’
After the proposal was rejected, Sir Alan warned of a ‘constitutional crisis’ in the coming months if Mr Johnson loses a confidence vote after becoming PM.
Another rebel Tory, Philip Lee, said of Mr Johnson: ‘I don’t see how he has got a majority to govern. It’s a very, very fragile situation with only a tiny majority.’
In a series of heavyweight warnings yesterday, three former prime ministers spoke out against the risks of pursuing a no-deal Brexit.
Sir John, a high-profile critic of Mr Johnson, said: ‘The new PM must choose whether to be the spokesman for an ultra-Brexit faction, or the servant of the nation he leads.’
Mr Blair said Mr Johnson had ‘boxed himself in to a No Deal Brexit’, while Mr Brown warned of the danger of inflicting ‘peacetime self-inflicted wounds’.
Could Hunt be sacked if he fails to get a big enough share of vote?
Jeremy Hunt is set to be sacked as foreign secretary tomorrow unless he manages to run Boris Johnson close in the Tory leadership contest.
Allies of Mr Johnson said last night that he would have a ‘free hand’ to demote his rival provided he secures at least 60 per cent of the vote when the result of the contest is revealed today.
Mr Hunt has indicated he wants to stay on as foreign secretary if his leadership bid fails. He is also said to have indicated he would accept an alternative top job, such as chancellor or deputy prime minister.
But allies of Mr Johnson are urging him to demote Mr Hunt following a fractious campaign in which he called his rival a ‘coward’.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured on Monday) is set to be sacked as foreign secretary tomorrow unless he manages to run Boris Johnson close in the Tory leadership contest
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading supporter of Mr Johnson, yesterday said Mr Hunt had no right to expect a top job and should stop ‘grandstanding and saying, ‘If I’m not Foreign Secretary I won’t be anything’.
The move came as Mr Johnson and his closest allies spent the day debating the make-up of his first Cabinet.
He is concerned that the reshuffle risks alienating dozens of his backers who have inflated expectations of their prospects.
He has told friends: ‘It is going to be very difficult to satisfy everyone.’
Another ally said the precise composition of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet would depend on his margin of victory. ‘The first thing is to win, the second is the scale of the victory,’ the source said.
‘If he gets 60 per cent of the vote then he has a free hand. If the lead is 10 points then he is going to be more constrained.’
Sources said the former Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris is being considered for the key position of chief whip, although current whips Chris Pincher and Mark Spencer are also said to be in the running.
Liz Truss, Matt Hancock and Sajid Javid are locked in a three-way battle to become Mr Johnson’s Chancellor.
And Mr Johnson is said to be agonising over what, if anything, to offer former defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
How will the new PM’s first 100 days in power shake out?
The new PM faces a trial by fire in his first 100 days in office – which culminates in the Brexit deadline on October 31.
Here are some of the key events:
Today: The new Tory leader is announced at an event in central London, with Boris Johnson the overwhelming favourite to win.
July 24: Theresa May will take her final session of Prime Minister’s Questions before making a brief statement in Downing Street, and heading to Buckingham Palace to offer her resignation to the Queen.
Her successor will then go to see the monarch to be asked to form a new government.
Assuming he wins, Mr Johnson is expected to deliver a speech outside No10 at around 5pm, before making the first few appointments to his top team. His girlfriend Carrie Symonds is not thought to be planning to be on show as he faces the media.
July 25-26: The Commons breaks up for its summer recess on Thursday. Mr Johnson will finish appointing his ministers, and could give a keynote speech fleshing out his plans.
August 1: Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
Tory candidate Chris Davies is seeking to regain the seat he was ousted from by a recall petition triggered in the wake of his conviction for submitting false expenses claims. If he fails, the new prime minister’s working majority in the Commons will be cut to just three.
August 24: G7 Summit in Biarritz. The new prime minister’s first appearance at a major global summit.
Donald Trump will be among the world leaders at the gathering, potentially providing the opportunity for a meeting with the controversial US president in an effort to highlight the importance of the special relationship and a future trade deal.
September: The UN General Assembly meeting in New York will provide another opportunity for the new prime minister to appear on the global stage and set out their vision for the country’s place in the world. –
September 29 to October 2: Conservative Party Conference.
The gathering in Manchester will be a key test of the new Tory leader’s ability to unite the party and provides a platform to use their closing speech to address the nation.
October 17-18: EU summit. This is the last schedule meeting of EU leaders before the UK is due to leave the bloc – although an emergency gathering could be called before or afterwards.
October 31: The deadline for reaching a Brexit deal.
Unless there is a further extension, this will be the UK’s last day as a member of the European Union and it will leave, with or without an agreement.