Boris Johnson has refused to say when he would bring in a Queen’s Speech as prime minister during the final hustings of the battle for the Conservative Party crown.
With critics accusing him of being ready to suspend Parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit on October 31, the frontrunner in the race avoided questioning on his plans.
Asked when he would bring in a Queen’s Speech if he gets to Number 10, Mr Johnson said: “I am not going to comment on our programme.”
Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing – suspending – Parliament as PM.
In an eye-catching move, Mr Johnson kicked off the final Tory leadership hustings by brandishing a kipper on stage.
Addressing the crowd in east London, he whipped out the fish and said the plastic wrapping it was in was an example of EU rules increasing business costs.
Mr Johnson said the entirety of Theresa May’s Brexit deal is “effectively defunct” but that the backstop to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland is the most egregious part.
“I think the whole Withdrawal Agreement is effectively defunct but the backstop is certainly the bit I find most difficult,” he said.
Mr Johnson said the backstop could mean being trapped in the EU customs union indefinitely or “losing control” of Northern Ireland.
Asked if he was good with money, Mr Johnson said: “What can I say, I’ve certainly spent a lot. Yes.”
Mr Johnson also said he was a feminist and did not dye his hair.
His leadership rival Jeremy Hunt also declined to say when he would hold a Queen’s Speech, but has ruled out proroguing Parliament in order to get a no deal through.
Asked whether Mrs May’s deal is “dead”, Mr Hunt replied: “As it is now, yes.
“I want to get a deal and so we have got to make some profound changes to that Withdrawal Agreement.
“That doesn’t mean ripping up the whole thing but it does mean the backstop has to go.”
Both candidates stuck firm to their Brexit stances despite Mrs May insisting the next prime minister should strive to reach a withdrawal deal.
Offering advice to her successor, Mrs May said they should find a way to leave the European Union that was “in the national interest”.
Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson has made a “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.
Current Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt has said he could delay Brexit beyond that point if a deal was in reach, but has not ruled out walking away from negotiations without an agreement.
Answering questions after her final major speech as Prime Minister, Mrs May said the “best route” for Brexit was to leave with a deal.
She said: “I think we had a good deal, but Parliament wasn’t willing to come behind that with a majority.
“It will be for whoever succeeds me to find a way through that and I believe that the aim must still be to leave – ie to deliver on the vote of the referendum – but to do so in a way that is in the national interest.”
She defended the Irish backstop, one of the most contentious parts of her Brexit deal.