The two men vying to be Britain’s next leader have traded verbal blows during a televised debate over which of them is more likely to deliver a successful exit from the European Union.
Conservative Party politicians Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt both claimed during the Tuesday night debate that they were best placed to negotiate the U.K. to Brexit day, which was postponed twice and currently is scheduled for Oct. 31.
Johnson says Britain leaving on schedule, with or without a divorce deal with the EU, is a “do or die” issue.
Johnson called Hunt, who followed him as Britain’s foreign secretary, “defeatist.”
Hunt accused Johnson of setting a “fake deadline” to further his ambition to be Britain’s next prime minister. He asked if Johnson he would resign if he failed to fulfill his promise to meet the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.
Hunt said: “It’s not do or die, is it? It’s Boris in No. 10 (Downing St.) that matters.”
About 160,000 Conservative Party members are eligible to vote for the party leader who will succeed Prime Minister Theresa May. The winner will be announced July 23.
In a significant shift, Britain’s main opposition Labour Party says the government should hold a referendum on whether to leave the European Union or remain in the bloc.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will campaign to stay in the EU if a referendum is called by Prime Minister Theresa May’s successor. Conservative lawmakers Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are competing for her job.
Labour’s opponents, and many supporters, have accused the party of dithering over Brexit for fear of alienating voters on opposing sides of the debate. But recent elections suggest Labour is losing support to parties that advocate remaining in the EU.
Corbyn said Tuesday that the new prime minister “should have the confidence to put their deal, or no-deal, back to the people in a public vote.”