Theresa May: I'm the best person to be Prime Minister
Theresa May has launched her candidacy to be the next Prime Minister with an offer of “strong, proven leadership”.
The Home Secretary presented herself as an alternative to the “showy gimmicks” of other candidates – one of several attacks she launched on fellow leadership hopeful Boris Johnson.
“If ever there was a time for a Prime Minister who is ready and able to do the job from day one, this is it,” she said.
Ms May had supported a Remain vote in the European Union referendum, but she stressed that “Brexit means Brexit”.
“The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict,” she said.
“There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.
"The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the Government and of Parliament to make sure we do just that.”
Outlining details of her negotiating position, she said she would not trigger Article 50, which begins a two-year window for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, until the end of the year at the earliest.
She also ruled out the prospect of a second referendum or an ‘emergency Budget’ in the wake of the Leave vote, as proposed by George Osborne, and said she would scrap the Chancellor’s central target to eliminate the budget deficit by the end of the decade.
“While it is absolutely vital that the Government continues with its intention to reduce public spending and cut the budget deficit, we should no longer seek to reach a budget surplus by the end of the Parliament," she said.
"If before 2020 there is a choice between further spending cuts, more borrowing and tax rises, the priority must be to avoid tax increases since they would disrupt consumption, employment and investment.”
The door to some sort of negotiation on free movement was left ajar, as she said there was “clearly no mandate for a deal that involves accepting the free movement of people as it has worked hitherto”.
She proposed a new department to handle Brexit negotiations, to be led by somebody who had backed a Leave vote.
Asked whether her pitch was as a Remain campaigner who could deliver Brexit, Ms May retorted: "My pitch is very simple: I'm Theresa May and I think I'm the best person to be Prime Minister.”
Chris Grayling, the Leader of the Commons and a high-profile advocate of leaving the EU, will chair her leadership campaign.
Scores of Conservative MPs attended her launch, including Cabinet minister Justine Greening, Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Dominic Grieve, Health Committee chair Sarah Wollaston, and several Home Office colleagues – past and present.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also given his backing to Ms May.
The Home Secretary has previously advocated the UK withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights but she said she would no longer pursue that policy.
“I’ve set my position on the ECHR out very clearly, but I also recognise that this is an issue that divides people," she said.
"There would be no parliamentary majority for pulling out of the ECHR so that is something I’m not going to pursue.”