Boris Johnson: Tories facing 'extinction' if Brexit not delivered in October
The Conservatives face "extinction" if Britain does not leave the European Union on 31 October, Boris Johnson has claimed.
In a pitch for Tory MPs to back his bid to become Prime Minister, he said his party risked an "existential crisis" and would be "punished for a very long time" if Brexit was not delivered in the autumn.
The warning from Mr Johnson - one of 11 candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader - comes after the party suffered heavy losses to Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party at last month's European elections.
Speaking at a leadership hustings in Parliament organised by the One Nation group of moderate Tory MPs, Mr Johnson said: "We are looking at a very difficult situation and we must get ready, eventually but not immediately, to beat Jeremy Corbyn and put Farage back in his box.
"We are facing an existential crisis and will not be forgiven if we do not deliver Brexit on 31 October."
He added: "We need to realise the depth of the problems we face. Unless we get on and do this thing, we will be punished for a very long time.
"There is a very real choice between getting Brexit done and the potential extinction of this great party - but I believe I can take on Farage and win back the voters being won over by him."
Mr Johnson has already vowed to quit the European Union "deal or no deal" on 31 October if he wins the Tory leadership battle.
His campaign received a boost on Wednesday as three ministers considered rising stars in the party threw their weight behind him.
Writing for The Times Red Box, Rishi Sunak, Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden said Mr Johnson could "inspire the country and revitalise our party".
"We need a leader who can engage everywhere, energetically advocate our cause and win people over," the trio wrote.
"No Conservative is better placed to do this than Boris Johnson. He will take the fight to our opponents - Farage and Corbyn - and we will win."
The move takes the number of publicly-declared MP endorsements for Mr Johnson to 40, 14 ahead of his nearest rivals Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt.
'PICK AN OUTSIDER'
Two candidates - ministers James Cleverly and Kit Malthouse dropped out of the race on Wednesday - as Tory bosses agreed to change the rules for the upcoming leadership election in a move which could lead to a major cull of candidates.
Hopefuls will now need the backing of at least eight MPs to take part in the race, compared to just two at present.
Making his own pitch for support at the One Nation hustings, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "One Nation is a term that was coined by a Prime Minister who was a bit of an outsider. Pick a Prime Minister who is also a bit of an outsider."
Meanwhile Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary who has drawn attention with a nationwide series of conversations with voters, warned his party against Brexit "promises we can't deliver".
He said: "I began this race believing I should be a truth-teller on principle.
"Ironically I have discovered that it is very popular - and the only way to avoid an election and win the next one is by being straight with people.
"No more unicorns, no more red lines, no more promises we can’t deliver. That’s how we get Brexit done, defeat Corbyn and unify the country."