The West Australian - - NEWS -

A host of can­di­dates to re­place Theresa May as Bri­tish prime min­is­ter have launched their cam­paigns, promis­ing to solve the tur­moil of Brexit while tak­ing shots at fron­trun­ner Boris John­son.

Mrs May stepped down as leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party on Fri­day, hav­ing failed three times to win Par­lia­ment’s sup­port for an EU di­vorce deal that was sup­posed to steer the coun­try smoothly out of the bloc.

Nom­i­na­tions to re­place her had to be submitted on Mon­day, and the party’s 1922 Com­mit­tee, which is run­ning the con­test, said 10 can­di­dates had achieved the re­quired sup­port of at least eight of the Con­ser­va­tives’ 300-plus elected MPs.

An­other, Sam Gy­imah, with­drew just be­fore the an­nounce­ment, say­ing he had not been able to build suf­fi­cient sup­port. He was the only one to sup­port a sec­ond Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

Con­ser­va­tive MPs will hold a first round of vot­ing to­mor­row to be­gin nar­row­ing the field.

The can­di­dates’ cam­paign launches on Mon­day all set out do­mes­tic agen­das, but it was Brexit that dom­i­nated, with overt and thinly veiled digs at former for­eign min­is­ter Mr John­son.

“If I get through, which I am sure I will ac­tu­ally, to the fi­nal two against Mr John­son, this is what I will say to him: ‘Mr John­son, what­ever you do, don’t pull out’,” said en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Michael Gove, who scup­pered Mr John­son’s 2016 lead­er­ship bid by pulling his sup­port at the last mo­ment to run him­self.

“The Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­ber­ship de­serve a choice.”

Nearly all the hope­fuls promised they could solve the Brexit co­nun­drum — which eluded Mrs May in three years of EU talks — in just three months, be­tween the leader be­ing cho­sen at the end of next month and the cur­rent exit date of Oc­to­ber 31.

“From my con­ver­sa­tions with Euro­pean lead­ers, it is clear to me there is a deal to be done; they want us to come up with pro­pos­als,” For­eign Min­is­ter Jeremy Hunt said.

If the is­sue was not sorted out, he said, the party would be an­ni­hi­lated in an elec­tion and Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn would take power.

Do­minic Raab, who quit as Brexit min­is­ter over Mrs May’s di­vorce deal, said he too could se­cure a new agree­ment.

How­ever, he promised Bri­tain would leave the EU on Oc­to­ber 31, even if that meant re­vert­ing to ba­sic World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion trade terms.

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