Rory Stewart has launched his Tory leadership bid with strong attacks on a no-deal Brexit and one of his rivals for Downing Street, Boris Johnson.
Launching his leadership bid at a circus tent on the South Bank in London, the international development secretary floated the idea of a “Brexit Assembly” of citizens to break the parliamentary deadlock on EU withdrawl, and he accused advocates of a no-deal exit of telling “fairy stories”.
Stewart questioned whether Johnson as PM would the right person to give orders to the commanders of Britain’s nuclear strike force.
He said he had spoken to Conservative Party associations across the UK.
When you ask them, do you really – and I don’t want to make this too personal – do you really feel that this is the person that you want engaging with the detail and the future of your health and education system?
“Is this the person that you want writing the instructions to the nuclear submarines?
“Is this the person that you want embodying the nation on the world stage and guiding you through the most difficult choice that Britain has faced for 50 years?
“I trust the Conservative members to arrive at the correct answers.”
Stewart attacked leadership rivals advocating a no-deal Brexit, accusing them of peddling “fairy stories”.
He said: “It is not just no to a deal. It is no to everything. It is no to Europe, it is no to trade, it is no to parliament, it is no to reality. We are not a ‘no’ country.
“Underlying all these stories that the other candidates are putting forward that masquerade as optimism is a failure – a failure to grasp reality. What they are giving you is fairy stories.
“The way that you change that world is being honest to the way the world is.”
Stewart said the “threat of a Brexit Assembly” could be held over MPs if they failed to agree on EU withdrawal.
He said the move would see “a grand jury of citizens” sit for three weeks to try to work out a way forward.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray was among the audience at the launch and publicly challenged Stewart to revoke Article 50 and end EU withdrawal.
“Never forget Rory, revoke Article 50! This mess started with the Conservatives – it has to end with the Conservatives. Stop Brexit!” Bray told the contender.