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Jeremy Hunt hits back at Boris Johnson over public challenge to rule out Brexit deadline extension

3 min read

Jeremy Hunt has hit back at Boris Johnson after the Tory leadership frontrunner called on him to publicly rule out an extension to the Brexit deadline.

Mr Johnson tweeted an open letter to his rival, urging him to commit to taking the UK out of the European Union “no ifs, no buts” on 31 October.

But Mr Hunt responded on Twitter by mocking Mr Johnson over his decision to dodge a TV debate with him which was due to take place on Tuesday evening.

Quoting Mr Johnson’s tweet, he wrote: “Hi Boris, it’s good to talk. But no need for snail-mail, why not turn up to Sky tonight and I’ll give you full and frank answers? #BoJoNoShow.”

It comes a day after he accused his predecessor as Foreign Secretary of being a “coward” for failing to face up to scrutiny and a "bottler" for snubbing the Sky News debate.

Mr Johnson told TalkRADIO on Tuesday that he would ensure Brexit happens "come what may" by the autumn deadline, adding that it was a case of "do or die".

In his letter to Mr Hunt, he said Brexit was the “central question” of their campaign to succeed Theresa May next month and that failure to deliver it on time could have “devastating” consequences for the Tory party.

“We must not kick the can down the road again,” he said. "The British people have had enough of being left in limbo. So both of us have a responsibility to provide clarity on exactly when we believe the UK should leave the EU."

“For my part, I have been clear that if I am elected leader we will leave on 31 October with or without a deal. Will you join me in this commitment to leave on 31 October come what may?”

Mr Johnson said his rival should clarify for how long he would be prepared to extend the deadline if he failed to commit to the October date.

He also urged Mr Hunt, who voted Remain in 2016, to rule out a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

He added: “If we kick the can, we will kick the bucket as a Party. Leaving on 31 October – with no ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’ – is the only way to restore trust in our democracy.

"Being ready to do so is the best way to convince our European friends that we are serious in these negotiations and to get a better deal.

"In short, this is about whether the original people’s vote will be respected. You are seeking to become Prime Minister, and people deserve to know where you stand.”

Tory MP Paul Masterton also hit back at Mr Johnson, tweeting: "So... if you manage to get the EU to renegotiate the deal to your magic new version, but you need an extra day, week or even month to finalise everything and, say, get through initial ratification, you'll just chuck it all in the bin to leave with no deal on 31 October regardless?"

Read Mr Hunt's response to Mr Johnson's letter in full below: 

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