Jeremy Hunt won't let ally Amber Rudd in his Cabinet if she refuses to sign up to no-deal Brexit
Jeremy Hunt will not let close ally Amber Rudd join his Cabinet if she refuses to sign up to plans for a no-deal Brexit, the Conservative leadership hopeful has declared.
Mr Hunt, who is squaring off with Boris Johnson to become the next Prime Minister, said Ms Rudd would need to "accept the possibility" of Britain leaving the EU without a deal before joining his top team.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is one of the most senior ministers backing Mr Hunt's bid to be Prime Minister.
She has frequently warned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, last month urging both Conservative candidates to "be straight with the British people" that Parliament "will block a no-deal Brexit".
Mr Hunt was asked whether Ms Rudd could serve in his Cabinet if she did not "accept" a no-deal at an event hosted by The Telegraph on Monday night.
He said: "Not if Amber is not prepared to accept the possibility of no-deal."
The vow echoes Mr Johnson's own insistence that anyone serving in his Cabinet will have to be "reconciled" to a no-deal Brexit, a move that opens the door to him sacking vocal no-deal critics like Chancellor Philip Hammond and Justice Secretary David Gauke.
The Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Hammond has agreed to fund Mrs May's final public spending pledges only if she agrees to allow Tory MPs a free vote on any parliamentary moves to try and thwart the next Prime Minister's no-deal plans.
Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have vowed to leave the European Union without a deal if no altered agreement with Brussels can be struck before 31 October.
However, Mr Hunt has left open the possibility of an extension beyond the October deadline if a deal is in sight.
The Foreign Secretary told The Telegraph event he would be "prepared to give it those few extra days" for an agreement, adding: "If there was a delay just to allow a bill to get done... I think it would be silly to rip things up just because of that deadline."
And he declared: "This isn’t just a Mr Nice Guy, this is someone who gets results and is able to change things for the better."
TV DEBATE LOOMS
The Cabinet vow came as the two men prepared to square off in their only scheduled head-to-head debate of the contest.
The pair will appear on a live ITV debate at 8pm on Tuesday, with Mr Hunt's team reportedly viewing the showdown as the last chance to derail Mr Johnson, who polls suggest is dominating the race to win over Conservative members.
An ally of the Foreign Secretary told The Sun: "We’ve got one final shot, and that’s to plant serious doubt in members’ minds about Boris during the debate.
"That’s the only way Jeremy can catch him now, and even then it will be hard."