Here’s How 11 Tory Contenders for UK Prime Minister Plan to Fix Brexit

By and | June 6, 2019

Eleven Conservatives are in the running to succeed Theresa May as U.K. prime minister. Each has their own vision of how to fix Brexit, and their views are so divergent that whoever wins will struggle to unite the party around their approach.The contest officially begins on Friday, with Conservative MPs whittling down the field to just two by June 22 in a series of votes. The final pair are then put to a postal ballot of the party’s 160,000 members, with the new prime minister to be announced in the week of July 22.

1) Boris Johnson

Who? The favorite to succeed May, Johnson, 54, quit as foreign secretary last July over her Brexit deal. He was first elected to Parliament in 2001, but left for an eight-year stint as London mayor, returning to the House of Commons in 2015.

Policy on Brexit: Johnson was arguably the most influential politician in the 2016 Leave campaign, though he famously drafted newspaper columns in favor of both Leave and Remain. In his campaign launch video, he said “If I get in we’ll come out deal or no deal on October 31.” He later told Tory colleagues at a private event that the party faces “extinction” if they don’t deliver Brexit by the current deadline. He says he’d go back to Brussels to renegotiate the contentious Irish backstop —the measure designed to keep the Irish border open after Brexit— and make clear that he’d be prepared to leave the European Union without an agreement if it refused. He has not set out any more detail, and has avoided situations where he can be publicly questioned.

Other policies: Johnson advocates cutting business taxes and red tape. He also proposes developing free ports, boosting transport infrastructure and broadband, raising spending on schools and the police.

Also: Born in New York, Johnson gave up his American citizenship in 2016. He’s published books on the Romans, London and wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

2) Michael Gove

Who? A former Times columnist who’s been an MP since 2005, Gove, 51, has held Cabinet positions including education secretary, justice secretary, and most recently, environment secretary, a role in which he’s won plaudits for measures to protect the environment and reduce plastic waste. In the last leadership election, he was going to run Johnson’s campaign before declaring he’d run himself.

Policy on Brexit: Gove was one of the figureheads of the Leave campaign. But he’s proved willing to compromise, backing May’s deal at every opportunity in Parliament. Since announcing his candidacy, he’s said the U.K. must honor the referendum result and that he wants a “contest of ideas.” He says a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t be in Britain’s interests and would be open to delaying exit day beyond Oct. 31 to renegotiate. He’s clear the U.K. must leave the bloc before holding a general election, or risk Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.

Other policies: Gove has said EU citizens currently in the U.K. should be able to apply for citizenship for free.

Also: Gove has been on a picket line, taking part in a year-long strike at the Aberdeen Press & Journal newspaper in the late 1980s.

3) Dominic Raab

Who? Raab, 45, quit as Brexit secretary in November over the direction of government policy, after four months in the job. He previously held a string of junior ministerial posts since entering Parliament in 2010.

Policy on Brexit: Campaigned for Leave. Raab says he’d seek to negotiate an exit from the Irish backstop and will be “clear” with the EU that if that isn’t possible, the U.K. is prepared to leave without a deal. “If you’re not willing to walk away from the negotiation it doesn’t focus the mind of the other side,” he told the BBC. He has said there’s no case for extending talks beyond October, and is prepared to sideline Parliament to pursue no-deal if necessary. He doesn’t want a general election before Brexit is delivered. After the split, he’d seek a “best-in-class” free trade deal with the bloc, like the one Canada enjoys.

Other policies: Raab proposes raising the threshold for National Insurance contributions and taking 1 percentage point off income tax, before cutting it further. Promises an early budget to give business confidence the U.K. can weather any short-term disruptions caused by Brexit.

Also: Raab has a black belt in karate.

4) Andrea Leadsom

Who? Leadsom, 56, was the last Cabinet minister to quit May’s top table before the premier announced she was stepping down herself. After reaching the final run-off against May in the 2016 leadership contest, she pulled out after she suggested that having children made her a better candidate to be prime minister than May. Leadsom then served in Cabinet as environment secretary, and latterly as leader of the House of Commons.

Policy on Brexit: Prominent Leave campaigner in 2016. Rules out general election, second referendum and extension to Brexit negotiations. Takes EU at their word that renegotiation isn’t possible, so plans a “managed” exit – essentially leaving without an overarching deal, but with a number of side agreements. (The EU has rejected this.) Leadsom’s three-point strategy involves: Enshrining uncontroversial parts of the existing deal in law – such as EU citizens’ rights; Ramping up preparations for Brexit to help business; and leading a delegation of U.K. ministers to talk with EU leaders, culminating in a summit in September to agree measures both sides will accept.

Other Policies: Told Conservative MPs that they need to sort out a new policy on social care, “the issue that will affect generations to come.” She proposes a cross-party commission to tackle it. She would sign up to a target to cut the U.K.’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Also: Leadsom told the Times she traveled to Greece in her teenage years with her sisters, and they were robbed on the way. They ended up sleeping in the sand and taking turns to wash dishes for money.

5) Rory Stewart

Who? Stewart, 46, is one of the newest members of May’s Cabinet, having been appointed international development secretary on May 1. He previously held a string of junior ministerial positions since coming into Parliament in 2010. Stewart also served as a deputy governor in Iraq following the 2003 allied invasion.

Policy on Brexit: Stewart voted Remain, and rejects both a no-deal Brexit and a second referendum. Commenting on colleagues advocating the former, he said: “It’s not actually a destination, it’s a failure to reach a destination.” He says there’s “no hope” of changing May’s Withdrawal Agreement by Oct. 31, and would accept a delay to get a deal through. He would also look to change the political declaration on the future relationship with the EU. He’d try to get moderate Labour MPs onside while retaining the “vast majority” of Tory MPs. He’d also speak to trade unions, and suggests formulating proposals through a Citizens’ Assembly of voters from across the demographic spectrum.

Other policies: Once Brexit is out of the way, Stewart has said he wants to get on to dealing with “climate, health, education and all the thousand small injustices of daily life which very sadly are not being addressed.” He says he’ll make no unfunded spending plans and no unaffordable tax cuts. Pledges include more resources for schools and the police, investment in regional infrastructure, boosting skills and increasing spending on research and development. Would sell off government stake in RBS.

Also: Stewart once tutored Prince William and Prince Harry. He’s walked across Asia, including a 32-day trek across Afghanistan that he then turned into a best-selling book. In May, he admitted in a Telegraph interview to taking a puff on an opium pipe while walking across Iran.

6) Jeremy Hunt

Who? Alongside May, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, 52, is the only MP to serve continuously in the Cabinet since the Tories regained power in 2010. He was the U.K.’s longest-serving health secretary, and has been an MP since 2005.

Policy on Brexit: Hunt voted Remain in 2016 but has since described himself as a “born again Brexiteer.” He advocates a renegotiation of the deal with the EU, with a focus on the backstop, and says there should be no general election until Brexit has been delivered. Having previously indicated he could accept a no-deal Brexit, more recently he’s described it as “political suicide” – while refusing to take it off the table. He’s open to extending negotiations beyond Oct. 31, but says Brexit should be delivered by the Conservatives along with their Democratic Unionist Party allies, rather than relying on Labour votes. The DUP and the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tories should have a seat in the negotiations, as should representatives of views in Scotland and Wales, he’s said.

Other Policies: Promises to “turbo-charge” the economy after Brexit to make it “the most high-tech, greenest, most pro-enterprise, pro-business economy in Europe.”

Also: Hunt is independently wealthy, earning about 15 million pounds ($18.9 million) in 2017 from the sale of an educational listings company he founded, Hotcourses. He once mistakenly referred to his Chinese wife as being Japanese.

7) Sajid Javid

Who? A former Deutsche Bank trader, Javid, 49, has been an MP since 2010. Promoted to the Cabinet in 2014 as culture secretary, he then held the briefs for business and communities, before being promoted to home secretary last year.

Policy on Brexit: Javid voted Remain, despite holding Eurosceptic views. Rules out a second referendum, general election or canceling Brexit. He’d choose a no-deal Brexit over no exit at all, but favors leaving with a deal. Rejects extending negotiations beyond Oct. 31. Plans to renegotiate Brexit deal to bring in a time limit or exit mechanism from the Irish backstop, and offer to cover Ireland’s costs for implementing new border technology. Throughout talks, he would step up preparations for a departure without an agreement. “It wouldn’t be painless,” Javid wrote in the Daily Mail on June 1. “So, as part of preparations we would have a broad, bold No-Deal Budget ready.”

Other Policies: Javid has pledged to cut taxes, saying that “simpler, flatter taxes should be a priority for any government.” Opposes “arbitrary” immigration targets.

Also: Javid is one of five sons of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, and his father was a bus driver. He has a portrait of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in his office.

8) Matt Hancock

Who? Hancock, 40, is the youngest candidate and has been an MP since 2010. He has served as health secretary since July, having previously been culture secretary. Hancock served as an aide to George Osborne, before he was chancellor of the exchequer. The Tories “need a fresh start and a fresh face,” he says.

Policy on Brexit: Voted Remain. He vows to deliver Brexit, and rules out a general election beforehand. Told Tory MPs a no-deal departure “is not a credible threat” because Parliament won’t allow it. He would unilaterally guarantee EU citizens’ rights and is open to renegotiating with the EU, but says the new leader also has to be “brutally honest about the trade-offs.” He thinks “far more” can be done to develop alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop and proposes an Irish border council to include representatives from the EU, Ireland, and an independent broker. Has also said he willing to talk with Labour backbenchers. He proposes a comprehensive free trade agreement as the basis for new relationship with the EU, making sure the U.K, leaves the customs union and single market.

Other Policies: Promised to keep debt falling as a share of the economy, while delivering 5 billion pounds of tax cuts to business to spur investment. He’s also announced plans to almost double spending on research and development.

Also: Hancock is a keen amateur jockey and is the only member of the Cabinet to have his own app.

9) Esther McVey

Who? The former TV presenter quit as work and pensions secretary in November in protest at May’s Brexit deal. McVey, 51, was first elected to Parliament in 2010, lost her seat in 2015, and returned to represent George Osborne’s former constituency in 2017.

Policy on Brexit: Voted for Brexit, which she calls a “magnificent opportunity.” McVey is alone among the contenders so far in saying the U.K. should now actively pursue a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31. “This is the only viable and acceptable Brexit option now left on the table,” she has said.

Other policies: McVey has pledged to cut aid to 2010 levels, freeing up 4 billion pounds for education spending, and 3 billion pounds for the police. She also wants to address the U.K.’s housing shortage. She’s been criticized by members of her own party for saying parents should be able to remove their children from classes that teach them about gay relationships.

Also: McVey spent her early years in foster care with the children’s charity Barnardo’s.

10) Sam Gyimah

Who? An MP since 2010, Gyimah, 42, served as a Parliamentary aide to Prime Minister David Cameron before holding a string of junior ministerial positions. A pro-European, he quit May’s government as Universities Minister over her Brexit policy.Policy on Brexit: Voted Remain. Alone among the candidates, Gyimah supports ending the “impasse” over Brexit by putting it to a second referendum.

Also: Born in Britain, Gyimah spent a period of his childhood in Ghana. He was president of the Oxford Union during his time at the university, and went on to become an investment banker with Goldman Sachs before becoming an MP. He’d be Britain’s first black prime minister if elected.

11) Mark Harper

Who? Harper, 49, is the only declared candidate not to have served in May’s government and admits to being an “underdog.” An MP since 2005, he held a number of junior ministerial posts in former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, before serving as his chief whip until the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Policy on Brexit: Voted Remain. Harper has said his absence from May’s administration means he isn’t tainted by her failure to deliver Brexit. He has advocated a “short, focused extension” to negotiations beyond Oct. 31 to give a new leader some extra time, and says a renegotiation is needed with the EU—especially on the backstop. He said that if the U.K. can’t get a deal through Parliament, it should leave the bloc without one.

Other Policies: Cutting taxes and boosting spending on education, though he told the Telegraph that candidates shouldn’t throw around “eye-catching spending and tax promises” without balancing the books first.

Also: Co-chairs “Women to Win,” which aims to get more women elected to Parliament.

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