First round of Conservative Party leadership election takes place today

Conservative MPs will vote in the first round of the Parliamentary stage of the party’s leadership election today, with the ballot opening at 10 a.m. The results are expected to be announced around 1 p.m. Any candidate with 16 votes of fewer will be eliminated and, if all the candidates meet this threshold, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated. Further rounds of voting will be held next week.

This comes as the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, launched their leadership campaigns yesterday. At an event in London, Johnson said he is “not aiming for a No Deal [Brexit] outcome,” adding that it “is only responsible to prepare vigorously and seriously” for such a scenario. He argued, “After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on 31 October,” and said he believed the Government “must do better than the current Withdrawal Agreement rejected three times by Parliament.” The Times reports that Johnson later told MPs that he was “strongly not attracted to” the option of proroguing Parliament as a way of achieving a No Deal Brexit, but did not rule the option out. Meanwhile, Javid said he had “a credible, honest plan for delivering Brexit so we can leave by the end of October this year.”

Separately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, warned yesterday that it would be “very difficult or impossible” for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October either with or without a deal, adding, “The parliamentary arithmetic remains exactly the same, the European Union’s position remains exactly the same.” Hammond said, “Boris [Johnson] — and any other candidate — is perfectly entitled to say they need to test it themselves, but I can advise them the European Union is not likely to be willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement we’ve agreed with them.”

Elsewhere, the House of Commons yesterday voted by 309 votes to 298 to reject an Opposition Day Business motion to give MPs control of the Parliamentary timetable on 25 June, the first stage in an attempt to introduce legislation to prevent a No Deal Brexit on 31 October. The Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, described the result as a “disappointing, narrow defeat,” adding, “this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block No Deal.”

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