Boris Johnson says Tories risk being 'fired' over Brexit as party plummets to lowest-ever vote share
Boris Johnson has warned that the Tories risk being "fired" by voters over Brexit as the EU elections saw the party slump to its lowest share of the national vote ever.
With ten out of twelve regions having declared, the Tories had gained just 8.8% support - its worst performance since the modern party was formed in 1834.
The party has so far lost 15 MEPs, leaving them with just three as Nigel Farage's newly-formed Brexit Party surged ahead.
Mr Johnson - the former Foreign Secretary who is the bookies' favourite to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister - said voters had delivered "a crushing rebuke to the Government".
And he warned his party that they would face a fresh drubbing if they did not deliver Brexit "properly".
"The message from these results is clear," he wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph. "If we go on like this, we will be fired: dismissed from the job of running the country.
"The only way to avert that outcome is to honour the result of the 2016 referendum, and come out of the EU; and that means doing it properly – not with some frail simulacrum of Brexit, but clearly and sensibly, so that we are able to join every other independent country in being able to set our own tariffs and make our own laws."
Mr Johnson said the Tories now faced the prospect of a "permanent haemorrhage of Conservative support" from 2016 Leave voters who "didn’t expect to be ignored" - and said the party "can and must deliver" on the referendum result.
"If we are courageous and optimistic, we can strike a good bargain with our friends across the Channel, come out well and on time - by October 31 - and start delivering on all the hopes and ambitions of the people," he said.
Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson's successor as Foreign Secretary and another leadership candidate, warned that the party faced an "existential risk" if it did not "get Brexit done".
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock - who is also vying to succeed Theresa May - said the party was now "on the brink" as he challenged his Tory leadership rivals to rule out an early general election in the face of the drubbing.
"We would be punished for our failure to deliver Brexit and under any leader this would risk Corbyn by Christmas," he warned in The Times.
"I call on all my fellow contenders publicly to rule out an early general election for the sake of the country and the Conservative Party."
Tory chairman Brandon Lewis admitted the party had endured a "difficult night" - but he sought to shift attention to Labour's own battering at the ballot box.