Fresh Tory leadership row as Dominic Raab suggests he could shut down Parliament to secure Brexit
Conservative leadership hopeful Dominic Raab has been branded "undemocratic" after he refused to rule out shutting down Parliament to ensure Brexit happens.
The former Brexit Secretary told a behind-closed-doors hustings organised by the One Nation group of moderate Tory MP that he would be prepared to temporarily "prorogue" the Commons to guarantee the UK leaves the European Union by 31 October.
A source close to Mr Raab told PoliticsHome: “His point is that if Parliament won’t rule out what options they will use then why would the executive rule out options?"
But the suggestion sparked an angry backlash from fellow leadership contender Rory Stewart.
The International Development Secretary told ITV's Peston programme: "All this talk about no-deal Brexit is a recipe for delay. It can’t be done.
"And the reason why Dom Raab is saying he is going to prorogue Parliament, in other words try to shut the doors on Parliament, is because the only way that they could try to get it through is by doing that.
"That would be illegal, if they did it for the express purpose of getting it through. It would be unconstitutional. It would be undemocratic. And it wouldn’t work."
Meanwhile Cabinet minister Amber Rudd told reporters outside the meeting that it was "outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament".
"We are not Stuart kings," the Work and Pensions Secretary said.
The heated row came as Mr Raab set out his pitch to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader alongside fellow contenders Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove.
Mr Raab told Tory MPs that his time as Brexit Secretary meant he knew "the strengths but also the weaknesses" of EU leaders.
"That's why we don't just need a conviction Brexiteer," he added. "We need someone who is resolute, but someone who can navigate the rocky path ahead and get Brexit delivered."
Meanwhile Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, said he was the best person to "negotiate a new approach" to Brexit.
And he warned against taking a "hardline" stance with the EU in a bid to win changes to the agreement thrashed out by Theresa May.
"I'm an entrepreneur who has been doing deals all my life," he said. "I negotiated the new BBC licence fee and the new doctors' contract. I won't pretend this will be easy.
"I met [French president Emmanuel] Macron and [German chancellor] Merkel today in Portsmouth and a hardline approach will lead to a hardline response. They will wait for parliament to block no deal."
He also warned the Tories would be "destroyed" by the Brexit Party if they fail to take the UK out of the EU.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the hustings that he would be willing to delay Brexit "for a few weeks" beyond 31 October if he believed a deal was in sight, but supporters later admitted it could actually be several months.
Speaking later at an event organised by the Spectator, he said: "The critical thing to do is to recognise if we're not 100% out by midnight on 31 October - then we risk making that arbitrary deadline the determinant of what a good deal is.
"If we're so close to the wire with what I believe is a better deal, it would be right to take those extra few days or weeks in order to land it and to make sure that we're out."
In a piece for the Daily Mail spelling out his Brexit stance, the Environment Secretary also insisted he would still be willing leave the EU without a deal, saying he would "always choose Brexit over No Brexit".
"If, finally, it comes to a decision between No Deal and No Brexit, I will choose No Deal – it’s a democratic imperative that we must leave the EU before the next general election or we risk letting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street," Mr Gove said.
"I’ve been involved in No Deal planning. I recognise, of course, it would mean short-term turbulence, but we would get through it and ultimately prosper."
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock also sparked a row by branding Jeremy Corbyn an anti-semite.
But a Labour source said: "Numerous candidates in the Conservative leadership contest have been accused of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny, one of whom may be the next Prime Minister."