Leadership rival Rory Stewart says Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans come “off the rails” once examined in detail

Tory hopeful Rory Stewart on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, June 16: Picture: BBC

Tory hopeful Rory Stewart on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, June 16: Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

Rory Stewart called out Tory favourite Boris Johnson for not answering 'brutal questions' of how he plans to deliver Brexit.

When BBC1's Andrew Marr asked Rory Stewart whether he regretted referring to Boris Johnson as "a great prancing clown" and "Pinocchio", the Conservative candidate for prime minister insisted that this was no longer a time for politicians to remain polite.

He said: "What I learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan is there were too many people trying to be polite.

"You have to point out when there is a challenge. We're at a cross roads in our country - we're making the most serious decision about who are prime minister is going to be.

"It's because you don't criticise, because you don't speak uncomfortable truths that you get in a mess.

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"This is the moment in this leadership race, to say - and it's a very brutal question - who do you trust to be your prime minister."

The secretary of state for international development warned that Johnson's reluctance to submit to media scrutiny was undermining trust in politics.

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"How is Boris going to deliver Brexit? He keeps saying 'I am going to deliver it'. I don't even know what he believes," said Stewart.

"He won't talk to me. He won't talk to you. He won't talk to the public.

"We want to know what he believes. The real problem with politics is a problem of trust.

He continued: "Nobody has had the chance to question him and as soon as you question him and as soon as I sit down with him and ask the big question - how, how are you going to deliver Brexit? How are you going to get a no-deal through? - Then it begins to come off the rails.

"We are a moderate country, we are not a Trumpian country."

After Marr suggested Stewart's plans to hand over the Brexit debate to a Citizens Assembly was a "gimmick", Stewart insisted that the assembly would be plan B should parliament fail to reach a decision.

He said: "We would select randomly from the Electoral Register 50,000 people.

"The reason to do it is to release the pressure from parliament. Parliament is gridlocked and stuck.

"Having sat down with constitutional experts at UCL, I believe we could get this done within weeks.

"It's the fallback option."

He continued: "There is no new negotiation with the European Union. Anybody who is pushing for that is pushing for a delay."

When asked what would happen should the assembly fail to reach a decision, Stewart said it was very "unlikely".

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