Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to take over from Theresa May as prime minister, has said he is prepared to take the UK out of the EU with no-deal.
“We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal,” the former foreign secretary told an economic conference in Switzerland on Friday afternoon.
“The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no-deal,” he said.
He was speaking after May announced on the steps of Downing Street that she would be resigning as Tory leader on June 7.
Her emotional speech sparks a leadership contest that will begin on June 10.
May will remain prime minister until a successor is chosen by her party in mid-July.
Johnson has already said he will stand in the contest. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, confirmed his intention to stand while speaking at a festival in his Surrey constituency today.
Some Tory MPs believe Johnson has the populist touch needed to see off the threat from both Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage.
He already has the backing of former Defence Secretary and veteran backroom operator Gavin Williamson.
But others do not believe Johnson has capabilities to be PM - not least due to the potential he could back a no-deal Brexit.
Dominic Grieve, the senior pro-EU Tory backbencher, said he “would take all steps necessary to prevent” the UK leaving without an agreement.
In recent weeks Johnson has reached out to more liberal Tory MPs, led by Amber Rudd, as the leadership contest approached.
Tory MPs will whittle down the candidates to the final two by the end of June.
They will then take part in a series of hustings around the UK before party members pick a winner.
Members of the public as well as Tory activists will be invited to ask questions of the candidates.
Once appointed, the new prime minister will have just over three months until the UK is set to leave the EU on October 31.
Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, said he was “deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next prime minister”.
“That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation,” he said.
Other candidates include Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, and ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 committee is also considering standing.
Steve Baker, the hardline Brexiteer backbencher who led efforts to oust May last year, said today a “considerable number” of Tory MPs and members of the public wanted him to enter the race.
Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor and veteran MP, predicted the contest would be “six weeks of chaos”.
Jeremy Corbyn said May was “right” to resign and said whoever replaced her must call an “immediate” general election.