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Boris Johnson tells Merkel EU must abandon backstop if it wants Brexit deal – live news

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

4.53pm BST

4.47pm BST

Earlier, in response to a question from a reader, I posted a paragraph explaining why Boris Johnson might not be quite as fearful of an early general election as people generally think he should be. (See 2.37pm.) But my colleague Severin Carrell, the Guardian’s Scotland editor, points out (fairly) that I left out the Scottish dimension. He’s sent me this.

Amidst all the talk of a snap election this autumn, it is unwise to ignore the likely scale of an Scottish National party “win” in Scotland. All the recent polls show the SNP will romp home with a larger number of seats: not quite as high as the 56 out of 59 seats they won in 2015 but they’re on course to easily surpass 40, leaving the other parties trailing.

Those numbers will have significant impact on the prospects of both the Tories and Labour of winning a majority in the Commons, where the SNP is currently the third largest party.

4.40pm BST

Angela Merkel has wished Boris Johnson “a sure hand” in his new role as British prime minister inviting him to visit Berlin in a telephone call.

The German chancellor interrupted her summer break to speak to Johnson today, in a conversation which a spokeswoman said focussed on Brexit as well as future bilateral relations.

4.37pm BST

Here are some pictures from Boris Johnson’s visit to West Midlands Police’s learning and development centre. I have not found any pictures of people posing for selfies with him yet.

4.32pm BST

This is from Sky’s Sam Coates, who has obviously seen TV footage of Boris Johnson’s walkabout this afternoon that has not been broadcast yet.

Interesting watching pictures of Boris Johnson doing a walkabout. Public coming up and doing selfies with the PM, without the police intervening. Not very Theresa May.

4.25pm BST

This is from the Mail on Sunday’s Harry Cole.

Ohhh… Sunday Times journalist Andrew Gilligan is the Prime Minister’s new adviser on Transport.

There had been rumours of this. Good news for cycling – based on their double act in London, anyway. https://t.co/MsMKDo0R8V

4.03pm BST

Downing Street has announced that six junior ministers (all parliamentary under secretaries of state) are saying in post. They are:

Kevin Foster, a Welsh Office minister and Cabinet Office minister, and government whip

3.58pm BST

And here is the German read-out from the Boris Johnson/Angela Merkel call. This is from Ulrike Demmer, a German government spokeswoman.

Chancellor #Merkel spoke to the new UK Prime Minister Boris #Johnson on the telephone today; they discussed #Brexit as well as bilateral relations. The Chancellor invited the Prime Minister to come to Berlin for his first visit in the near future. @10DowningStreet pic.twitter.com/TdW1NUDKSb

3.51pm BST

Boris Johnson has had a telephone call with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. According to the Downing Street read-out, Merkel got exactly the same message about how the backstop must go that Emmanuel Macron received. (See 12.38pm.) A Number 10 spokesman said:

The PM today received a call of congratulations from German chancellor Angela Merkel. They agreed to continue to strengthen our bilateral relationship, and to work together closely on foreign policy and security issues.

On Brexit, the PM said that he would be energetic in reaching out as much as possible to try to achieve a deal, but he reiterated the message he delivered in the House of Commons yesterday: parliament has rejected the withdrawal agreement three times and so the UK must fully prepare for the alternative – which is to leave without a deal on October 31.

3.36pm BST

The pound has been falling in value this afternoon in the light of Simon Coveney’s comments about Brexit (see 1.08pm), the BBC’s Faisal Islam reports.

Sterling now dipping below 1.24 to $1.2395 this afternoon, after comments such as this from Ireland’s Tanaiste Coveney that PM Johnson “deliberately” put UK “on collision course” with EU and Ireland, and No 10 saying EU needs to drop backstop for talkshttps://t.co/xSgR7yOK8q

3.33pm BST

It looks like Tobias Ellwood has been sacked. Ellwood, a defence minister, said at the weekend that a no deal Brexit could plunge the Tories into opposition for an awfully long period of time. But two days later he said he would not be resigning from government.

Now he is out. He has posted this on Twitter.

It’s been a privilege.

I return to the backbenches with ever more passion, respect and humility for our amazing Armed Forces. And will continue to make the case for further defence spending.

Si vis pacem, para bellum pic.twitter.com/j535Go7Ui1

3.16pm BST

Julian Smith, the new Northern Ireland secretary, has been visiting Derry.

3.10pm BST

We’ve had another instalment of the reshuffle.

These are all parliamentary under secretary of state appointments, or the equivalent, which is the most junior level of minister.

2.37pm BST

Here are two questions from below the line that I’ll answer up here because they raise issues of general interest.

Andrew – with all eyes on a possible vote of No Confidence as a way of stopping Boris Johnson as PM taking the UK out of the EU on No Deal:

Given that a vote of NC would lead to a General Election, after a cooling off period of 14 days when the PM would try to turn things round (and 25 working days to prepare, after Parliament is dissolved), how can MPs force the date of the GE to be set before 31st October?

Andrew – could you please explain what Boris’s thinking might be behind an autumn election, assuming it’s planned to occur pre-Brexit? Much though Labour is in a fairly miserable position, aren’t the Tories equally vulnerable to their vote being split by Brexit Party candidates standing everywhere? If the Remain factions do get themselves sorted enough to identify a single remain-friendly candidate in most consituencies, hasn’t Boris got an awfully hard job on his hands to get a majority?

2.09pm BST

Boris Johnson could be joined in Downing Street by a new companion – a pet dog, the Press Association reports. The prime minister is understood to have raised the prospect of bringing in man’s best friend when he addressed staff in Number 10 for the first time. Johnson began by declaring that he wanted to end the feud between Downing Street cat Larry, and his rival across the street at the Foreign Office, Palmerston, who famously do not get on. He then apparently suggested the idea of getting a dog – to cries of approval from the assembled staffers. Insiders acknowledged that any new four-legged resident of Number 10 would have to get on with Larry, who was originally brought in by David Cameron to deal with the Downing Street mice. However a decision may be some way off. “It is a longer-term project,” a source said.

1.28pm BST

Downing Street has just announced a new tranche of ministerial appointments.

Promotions

1.08pm BST

This is what Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, said this morning about how Boris Johnson has put the UK “on a collision course” with the EU over Brexit. (See 11.56am.) Coveney said:

The statements of the British prime minister yesterday in the House of Commons were very unhelpful to this process.

He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations, and I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that.

I think from a Brexit negotiating perspective, it was a very bad day yesterday, we will have to wait whether that message coming from London changes in the weeks ahead.

Yesterday “was a very bad day” from a #Brexit negotiating perspective.

Tánaiste @SimonCoveney says “we will have to wait and see if the message coming from London changes in the weeks ahead.” pic.twitter.com/rlEMe7gaan

12.54pm BST

Steve Baker, the Tory Brexiter and deputy chair of the European Research Group, has told the Evening Standard that he is is worried Boris Johnson will ask MPs to back “a ‘compromise’ withdrawal agreement with a time limit on the backstop”, Joe Murphy reports. Baker and his fellow ERG hardliners think only the complete removal of the backstop would be acceptable.

In his Commons statement yesterday Johnson did say the backstop would have to go for good. He told MPs:

If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.

12.38pm BST

Here is a full summary of the Downing Street lobby briefing.

The purpose of the call was to congratulate the prime minister. They did discuss Brexit.

When the prime minister has these conversations with fellow leaders and the discussion moves onto Brexit, he will be setting out the same message which he delivered in the House of Commons yesterday and in his conversation with President Juncker.

We are clear-eyed about what needs to happen if we are going to be able to secure a deal which parliament can support.

12.11pm BST

The French government has warned Boris Johnson against playing games with the Irish border after the new British prime minister demanded the ditching of the backstop, my colleague Daniel Boffey reports.

Related: France warns Boris Johnson not to play games with Irish border

12.09pm BST

At its regular briefing the European Commission also said that there are no meetings scheduled yet between the EU and Boris Johnson’s government. The commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, spoke to Johnson on the phone yesterday, and said officials remain available should the UK wish to hold talks. But today the commission’s spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said:

I have no further announcements in terms of timing or planning of that to announce today.

12.01pm BST

David Mundell, who was sacked as Scottish secretary by Boris Johnson on Tuesday, has said he “will not shirk” from challenging the new prime minister if his policies risk boosting calls for Scotland’s independence.

Mundell had been openly hostile to Johnson’s leadership bid, making it widely known he feared his populist and at time jingoistic brand of politics, and his openness to a no deal Brexit, threatens the future of the UK.

The new prime minister must work hard to ensure that does not happen. Having listened carefully to everything he has had to say over the past few weeks, I’m hopeful …

I take the prime minister at his word, but I made clear that I see my role as a backbench MP as holding him to account on his commitment to the union – and I will not shirk from doing so.

11.56am BST

These are from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll, who has been following Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister’s, meeting with the new Northern Ireland secretary, Julian Smith, at Stormont.

PA reporting from Coveney presser:
Yesterday was a very bad day for Brexit negotiations perspective

NEW: Coveney press (via press association)
IRELAND’S COVENEY SAYS APPROACH BY UK’S JOHNSON IS NOT THE BASIS FOR AN AGREEMENT

Coveney: – Johnson’s comments designed to set UK on collision course with the EU

Coveney: – Boris Johnson’s comments in House of Commons have been very unhelpful

Coveney says hopes to have deal on restoring Stormont “concluded in a matter of weeks”

11.45am BST

I’m just back from the Downing Street lobby briefing. Here are the three main lines

10.57am BST

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, has restated her view that congress will not pass a UK-US trade deal if Boris Johnson’s government puts the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland at risk, the Irish Times reports. Pelosi said:

We made it clear in our conversations with senior members of the Conservative party earlier this year that there should be no return to a hard border on the island. That position has not changed. Any trade deal between the US and Great Britain would have to be cognisant of that.

10.52am BST

Some figures in the Boris Johnson camp are pushing back against the conventional media assumption, which has been fuelled by what Johnson has been doing and saying over the last 48 hours, that he is planning for an early general election. This is from the Spectator’s James Forsyth.

Leading Number 10 figure tells me that there’s no plan for an election in September and that the focus is on leaving on October 31st without a general election. Am informed that this has been made extremely clear to both Downing Street SPADs and officials

Punditocracy already deciding that the primary mission of the government is to get re-elected. Wishful thinking. Primary mission of that team in Downing Street is to Brexit. An election before Brexiting is a possibility, not the priority.

10.43am BST

Good news for all those in Downing Street working on the reshuffle: Peter Bone, the outspoken Tory Brexiter, is available to serve. Bone, a serial rebel, is one of those MPs assumed at Westminster to be destined for a lifetime on the backbenches, but when he was asked on Sky’s All Out Politics if he would take a job in Boris Johnson’s government, he replied:

Yeah, I would, actually. The odds of that are extremely unlikely. But I would, because I want to support Boris. I went up and down the country running the ‘Back Boris’ rallies to support him.

10.31am BST

According to Jim Pickard and Gillian Tett in today’s Financial Times (paywall), Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, and some Donald Trump supporters in the US are backing a new group, World4Brexit, which is being set up to lobby for Brexit. Farage told the FT he was not convinced Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit.

Mr Farage, speaking just before the fundraiser at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan, said the donations would all be “above the board and legal”.

The cash would not go to political candidates and would be used to “dig deep, find out who is really running the show”, according to the fundraising documents …

The new Farage-linked group, World4Brexit, is telling potential donors that George Soros has given “tens of millions” to the Remain cause.

In reality the only Soros donations I can find so far (to Best For Britain) amount to under £1m. pic.twitter.com/bwfldQAgut

9.59am BST

There were three council byelections yesterday. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party was putting up candidates for the first time in council byelections in two of the wards. They did not win, and instead the Lib Dems gained two seats.

Britain Elects has the results.

Three council by-elections tonight: two in Gloucester (one Conservative defence, one Labour); and one in Hartlepool (Labour defence).

Our @andrewteale previews them for you here: https://t.co/rjsxaDRa3B

Hart (Hartlepool) result:

LAB: 30.5% (+1.3)
INDU: 29.8% (+29.8)
GRN: 16.3% (+12.7)
FBM: 13.8% (+13.8)
UKIP: 9.5% (-17.7)

Labour HOLD.

No Independent (-20.3) and Conservative (-19.7) as previous.

INDU: Independent Union.

FBM: For Britain Movement.

Podsmead (Gloucester) result:

LDEM: 30.0% (+30.0)
CON: 29.6% (-18.5)
LAB: 18.0% (-33.9)
BREX: 16.4% (+16.4)
GRN: 4.3% (+4.3)
UKIP: 1.6% (+1.6)

Liberal Democrat GAIN from Labour.

Lib Dem gain by just three votes. https://t.co/e9IL0lgo9C

Barnwood (Gloucester) result:

LDEM: 46.5% (+15.1)
CON: 34.1% (-6.0)
BREX: 10.5% (+10.5)
LAB: 4.4% (-6.9)
GRN: 4.1% (-1.3)
UKIP: 0.4% (-11.2)

Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative.

Related: Local byelections: Lib Dems win two seats, Brexit party none

9.39am BST

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, is meeting the new Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith at 10am, in the first British-Irish engagement since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

Smith is in Belfast this morning for his first round of meetings with parties at Stormont followed by a trip to Derry this afternoon.

9.35am BST

On the Today programme this morning Bertie Ahern, who was Irish prime minister at the time of the Good Friday agreement said that Boris Johnson was being “not bright” in trying to make 31 October a rigid deadline for Brexit. He told the programme:

I just don’t see how such a tight timescale – [it’s] nothing to do with the determination, or skill, or ability, or anything – just to agree a whole new agreement, it’s just very hard to see how that can be done by Halloween.

I think we should all avoid trying to come up with simplistic solutions that this can all be done just by waving a hand or the stroke of a pen.

It is complex, it is difficult, it is new, and I think forcing a deadline into that is not bright, and I put it no stronger than that.

9.25am BST

These are from Alan Travis, the Guardian’s former long-serving home affairs editor, on the announcement about extra police officers.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to recruit 10,000 extra mental health nurses and 10,000 extra police officers rather than 20,000 extra police? Much growing demand on the police result of cuts to other services..

Metropolitan police have said that 40% of their time is spent dealing with incidents that ‘have a mental health element”. Kent police say 30%.

Turns out that crime wasn’t down.
Turns out that police reform wasn’t working.

9.07am BST

It’s Boris Johnson’s second full day in office and, in a move that will do nothing to quell suspicions that we’ve already slipped into the early phase of a general election campaign, Johnson has announced that he will start the process of recruiting 20,000 extra police officers “within weeks”. Interestingly, he also says that he will set up a new national policing board to ensure that police forces do hire the extra officers needed.

Here is an explanation from the news release.

Chaired by the home secretary and bringing together key police leaders, it will hold the police to account for meeting this target and drive the national response to the most pressing issues that affect communities right across the country.

There are a wide variety of logistical challenges that come with the recruitment process … Not just getting people through the doors, [but] the assessment process, the attraction, recruitment campaigns, the vetting, all of those sorts of logistical challenges, and then of course training people, making sure they are fit for the responsibilities that they have.

When it comes to policing, Boris Johnson simply cannot be trusted. He served in a government which promised to protect the police, then voted for brutal real-terms cuts.

As mayor of London, he vowed to recruit thousands of officers, but police numbers fell on his watch.

Continue reading…

Running the Guardian’s politics blog: ‘We’ve never had so many readers’

The Guardian’s live blogger Andrew Sparrow on a decade of breaking news, snap verdicts and having the space to tell stories differently

I spent 11 years covering politics in the lobby for local and national papers, and then gave up work when our youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism. When I was ready to go back, the Guardian was advertising for an online political correspondent. Like all sensible journalists, I had always wanted to work for the Guardian, but it was a time when political blogging was taking off, and I was also starting to think that online offered opportunities to cover politics in better ways. I got hired.

Continue reading…

Politics Live – readers’ edition: Friday 19 July

A forum where readers can discuss today’s politics and share links to breaking news and to the most interesting politics stories, blogs and tweets on the web

8.24am BST

We’re not writing our usual blog today but here, as an alternative, is the Politics Live readers’ edition. It is a place for you to discuss today’s politics, and to share links to breaking news and to the most interesting stories and blogs on the web.

Feel free to express your views robustly, but please treat others with respect and don’t resort to abuse. Guardian comment pages are supposed to be a haven from the Twitter/social media rant-orama, not an extension of it.

Related: Treasury to unveil ‘£2bn public sector pay rise’, but from existing budgets

Related: Tory rebels send stark warning to Boris Johnson over no-deal Brexit

Related: Ursula von der Leyen: hard Brexit would be massive blow for both sides

Related: May throws down gauntlet to successor over paternity leave

Related: Sadiq Khan calls for new powers to impose London rent controls

Tonight’s contests include a by-election for Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner (Labour held), and on the council by-election front: two Conservative defences, two Lib Dem defences, one Plaid Cymru defence.@andrewteale previews them for you here:https://t.co/dRQ8rZHukN

Llanbadarn Fawr Sulien (Ceredigion) result:

PC: 63.3% (-7.4)
LDEM: 31.6% (+16.3)
LAB: 5.1% (-3.6)

Plaid Cymru HOLD.

Westbury North (Wiltshire) result:

LDEM: 52.4% (-5.6)
IND (Cunningham): 24.8% (+24.8)
CON: 15.0% (-14.0)
LAB: 6.1% (-6.9)
IND (Morland): 1.7% (+1.7)

Liberal Democrat HOLD.

East Sheen (Richmond upon Thames) result:

LDEM: 58.9% (+12.6)
CON: 35.5% (-11.8)
WEP: 2.9% (+2.9)
LAB: 2.7% (-3.8)

Liberal Democrat HOLD.

Brixworth (Daventry) result:

LDEM: 49.5% (+38.6)
CON: 37.3% (-28.2)
LAB: 13.2% (-10.5)

Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative.

Downs North (Ashford) result:

CON: 37.4% (-10.0)
GRN: 31.0% (+7.5)
LDEM: 11.4% (-7.3)
ASHI: 10.9% (+10.9)
UKIP: 3.6% (+3.6)
LAB: 2.8% (-7.6)

Conservative HOLD.

The Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner count is tonight verifying votes, but will commence the full count from 10am tomorrow morning.

Continue reading…

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt refuse to call Trump’s comments racist – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

9.56pm BST

That’s it form us for the evening. You can see my summary of the Tory leadership debate here and a summary of the day’s earlier events here. And, if you’d like to read yet more, my colleagues Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot have the full story:

Related: Hunt and Johnson: the backstop is dead and can’t be in any EU deal

9.30pm BST

The defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt, who is backing Jeremy Hunt, said after the debate:

Tonight, Jeremy again showed that he is the candidate the country can rely on to deliver Brexit and also the leader we need to win a majority at the next general election and take our country forward.

Throughout the campaign, and all he has been dealing with as our foreign secretary, he has shown that he is a strong leader with solid judgment based on deeply-held values.

9.05pm BST

That’s all from this evening’s debate, here’s a summary of the main points:

8.47pm BST

Will each continue to freeze fuel duty? Each refuses to say, adding they want to make no more spending commitments.

When was the last time each cried? Hunt refuses to answer. Johnson says it was when his bicycle was stolen from outside Parliament.

8.40pm BST

They are asked: Is Jeremy Corbyn personally antisemitic?

“Unfortunately, he may be,” says Hunt, nodding.

8.38pm BST

The questions from the audience are finished, the candidates are moving to a “quick-fire round”.

Each says he would stick to the pledge to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

8.35pm BST

Asked about the difficulty young people have in getting on the property ladder, Hunt restates his “right to own” policy – under which he proposes to hand over land that has planning permission and invite young people to pay for a house to be built upon it.

Johnson says the UK must build much more “good quality part buy, part rent” homes to help young people who cannot afford a whole property immediately. These would be built on brownfield sites, he says.

8.28pm BST

Hunt says the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has persuaded him to end the five-week wait before people can claim Universal Credit, saying it was the right reform but had unexpected consequences. And he says he would look very sympathetically at Rudd’s proposal to end the freeze on working age benefits.

Johnson refuses to back the plan, saying he’s “probably made enough spending commitments in the last week for the time-being”.

8.20pm BST

Johnson and Hunt are asked what changes they would make to the tax system to help the lowest paid.

Johnson says he would raise the threshold for National Insurance and talks up the living wage. He repeats his somewhat opaque claim about his success in cutting poverty in London while serving as its mayor.

8.14pm BST

The candidates are asked how much right the public have to know about a potential prime minister’s private life. Hunt says he’s happy to have had his wife with him on the campaign trail.

Johnson says he made it a rule years ago not to bring his family into his public life. His private life, of course, was the basis for serious questions about his character earlier in the campaign.

Related: Boris Johnson: police called to loud altercation at potential PM’s home

8.09pm BST

Both candidates commit to making a woman either chancellor, foreign secretary or defence secretary. Johnson did so after some hesitation, saying: “Yes, I think so. Well, I dunno. I’ve chucked it out there a – make of it what you will.”

8.07pm BST

The candidates are asked about diversity and LGBT rights – are they issues that are important to Tories?

Both respond that they are proud of their record on the latter while in government.

If you’re going to excavate and disinter every single quotation from the millions of words I have written, you can of course try and twist things one way or another but I have a very proud record.

8.00pm BST

Next question: How will each convince the public they are not simply “self-serving posh boys”.

Johnson goes first, saying he will win trust by pushing through Brexit, then by pursuing classic conservative policies, such as backing business.

7.55pm BST

Asked about the possibility of the UK joining in hypothetical future US military strikes on Iran, both of the candidates say they don’t believe such an outcome is likely and they do not seek a confrontation with the country.

7.54pm BST

The candidates are asked if they back Theresa May’s criticism of Donald Trump. The US president used racist language to attack Democratic congresswomen at the weekend.

Hunt says he does and says he would be furious if someone spoke about his children in such terms.

7.48pm BST

Johnson is asked whether or not he’ll stand up to Donald Trump and asked about the Sir Kim Darroch case.

Johnson repeats his line that he was sad to see Darroch resign and, after having influenced that decision by publicly and repeatedly refusing to explicitly back him, he claims he now does support the UK’s outgoing envoy.

7.46pm BST

The final question on Brexit: How likely is a trade deal with US?

Hunt says it’s “very likely” and claims the Trump White House is very enthusiastic about such a move. He says “we are not going to put the NHS up for sale” and says Trump’s comments on the NHS were “misinterpreted”.

Related: Trump wavers after saying NHS must be on table in US-UK trade talks

7.38pm BST

The candidates are asked whether they would prefer a second referendum or a general election if they cannot push through Brexit.

Hunt says he will accept neither option and that’s the reason for his refusal to set a hard deadline for Brexit. If he did set one, he says, he would have no option but to call a general election if Parliament blocked his deal.

7.30pm BST

The candidates are asked how the Good Friday Agreement can be respected in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson refers to a “spirit of optimism” and repeats his claims that the border discussions should be part of the free trade agreement negotiations.

7.23pm BST

Johnson is asked how costly a no-deal Brexit would be. He refuses to say whether or not he has costed it, adding that the “Treasury will come up with spine-chilling figures”, but that the cost can be minimised if the UK prepares.

Hunt says there are “real costs for businesses” that will not go away. He says he will hand £6bn to farming and fishing communities to minimise the costs. “But I don’t think you can say they’re vanishingly small.”

7.21pm BST

What if the Commons blocks a no-deal Brexit, they are asked?

Hunt says his “Plan A” is to avoid such a scenario by securing a deal. He also attacks Johnson over his record while in cabinet, pointing out that he did not resign when the backstop plan was put in place and then subsequently voted for it once (while he acknowledges he voted for it three times).

7.18pm BST

Newton Dunn asks if net immigration will come down under each of the candidates. Johnson says he wants control but refuses to say it will fall.

Hunt agrees that control is the point but says people wanted overall levels of net migration to fall when they voted for Brexit. He claims not reduce net levels of immigration would be a betrayal and says the UK must train people currently in the country in order to reduce its reliance on migration to fill key jobs.

7.15pm BST

Johnson says it’s important not to send out a signal to the EU that the UK’s willing to contemplate a further delay.

7.13pm BST

The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, asks if it’s not unreasonable to suggest there’s sufficient time to renegotiate a deal that took two years to negotiate in the first place.

Johnson responds that he believes there’s willingness within the EU to do a deal. And he says the UK must prepare for a no deal or risk lacking credibility on the continent.

7.09pm BST

The first half of the debate will address questions on Brexit. Luke Black, a Tory member, gets the first question: How can the candidates convince young Tories they are the person to push Brexit through?

Johnson says he offers “clarity of purpose” to which the EU will respond.

7.05pm BST

The debate begins with one-minute opening statements from the two candidates. Johnson goes first, kicking off with his familiar “get Brexit done” line. Then he moves on to claim he has a plan to win people round to conservatism.

Hunt says he too wants to “deliver Brexit” and “stop Corbyn”. He says people who “think with their heads as well as their hearts” will favour his plan for the former. And he says he wants to convince more young people to vote for the Conservatives.

7.02pm BST

The head-to-head debate between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson is about to get underway. We’ll bring you updates from that as they come in.

6.33pm BST

Numerous reports are now coming through that a shadow cabinet meeting will be convened on Monday – as requested by the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer – to discuss claims of antisemitism within the Labour party.

Jeremy Corbyn will then face the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).

Starmer says Corbyn will attend PLP next Monday before a special shadow cabinet meeting. On EHRC he says: “Throw open the books, throw open the files, and access to any member of staff. We cannot circle the wagons.”

NEW: John Cryer announces that there will be a special shadow cabinet meeting to discuss antisemitism on Monday. Jeremy Corbyn will then attend PLP that evening.

NEW: Understand at PLP John Cryer said “attack on whistleblowers was gross misjudgment and bottom line is we have racists in party and who are not being dealt with”.

Louise Ellman said antisemitism was “a shame and a scourge and the leader’s response was disgraceful”.

The #plp chair John Cryer, i am told, was ‘furious’ at how the party leadership had handled #Panorama – parliamentary committee is writing to the ‘whistleblowers’ to express support for them And Louise Ellman denounced the leadership response to the programme as ‘disgraceful’

6.20pm BST

An update from ITV’s Paul Brand on that video footage he said showed the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, apparently trying to avoid the cameras after addressing party staff:

I understand Jeremy Corbyn did not raise antisemitism with staff. Instead, topics of conversation on his walk around the office included the Durham Miners’ Gala on the weekend.

Am told Jeremy Corbyn was actually slipping off to get in the lift.

Either way, moments later he left out of a discreet exit round the back of a department store rather than the main front / back exits where he’d spotted our cameras.

New – At tonight’s PLP Keir Starmer is calling for dedicated shadow cabinet meeting on antisemtism, saying the party needs to throw open the books to the EHRC investigation

Am told PLP chairman John Cryer has said that Labour’s parliamentary committee will be offering its full support to Panorama whistleblowers…

On Labour’s response to Panorama, Siobhan McDonagh tells PLP: “The party of the workers? Don’t make me sick.”

At PLP several angry interventions over antisemitism already. @Siobhain_MP stood up to defend her constituent Sam Matthews who was one of the whistleblowers in the Panorama documentary.

6.01pm BST

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, has posted an interesting Twitter thread looking at what concessions Boris Johnson might get out of Europe. In short – not much, he thinks, but do read the whole thread. It starts here.

Having met some key officials Brussels, a thread on how the EU views the imminent arrival of a BJ government. The changes in top EU personnel will not make much difference, as Brexit policy will continue to be driven mainly by FRA, GER and a few other capitals. @CER_EU /1

20% chance of no deal, 50% chance of leaving with a deal similar to May’s deal, 30% chance of Referendum. Those options could precede or follow an election, which seems quite likely. @CER_EU https://t.co/dTgNAqLiZ0

Key factor for me is how many Labour MPs are ready to vote for May-type deal. It may be 25. In which case the vote could be close. https://t.co/WieA9l9wnF

5.29pm BST

This is from Naz Shah, the shadow minister for women, commenting on our story about Boris Johnson arguing in an essay some years ago that Islam caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the west. (See 5.03pm.) Shah said:

This is as historically inaccurate as it is Islamophobic. Boris Johnson must fully apologise for his record of racist remarks.

After his previous comments describing women wearing the burqa as ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bankrobbers’, which has been linked to a rise in hate crime targeting Muslim women, Johnson’s disgraceful views make him unfit to be an MP, let alone prime minister.

5.26pm BST

From ITV’s Paul Brand

WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn appears to slip behind a pillar in the foyer of Labour HQ to avoid the cameras awaiting his departure. He was there to speak to staff, apparently all part of a ‘semi-regular’ visit, as he faces criticism of the way the party’s handled antisemitism. pic.twitter.com/6nSCD9IBpq

5.20pm BST

Theresa May held a roundtable in Downing Street today with representatives from the car industry. Number 10 has just sent out a press release that reads a bit like another attempt to define a legacy of sorts for her premiership. Here is an extract.

The prime minister also set out a number of new commitments aimed at making electric vehicles more convenient than ever before to own, which were welcomed by attendees including:

making England the first place in the world where every new-build home will be fitted with an electric car chargepoint, under a consultation launched today

5.03pm BST

Boris Johnson has been strongly criticised for arguing Islam has caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the west, in an essay unearthed by the Guardian, Frances Perraudin reports.

Related: Boris Johnson claimed Islam put Muslim world ‘centuries behind’

There is communism; there is capitalism, Conservatism, Catholicism — and there is columnism. It’s a cast of mind. Its practitioners are a type. First, foremost and for ever, Boris will be a columnist. The reflections on his and my trade which follow should be read also as thoughts on Johnson himself.

Columnism is striking poses which (as any method actor will tell you) will only convince others if you yourself can temporarily inhabit the belief. You are counsel for the prosecution or defence of an idea, or dream, or fear, hatred, party or politician. You take a brief, elbow doubt and ambiguity aside, and go — joyously or ferociously but always (in the moment) with passion and conviction — full pelt. What columnism is not is making absolutely sure first that you’re right. To be frank, you sometimes rather doubt it.

4.28pm BST

With parliament deadlocked over Brexit, there is growing interest in the idea that citizens’ assemblies could be used to find policy solutions to problems that cannot be resolved by MPs. Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, has been arguing for almost a year that a citizens’ assembly could provide a solution to Brexit. Rory Stewart put the same idea at the heart of his Brexit plan during his short-lived bid for the Conservative party leadership. And the Guardian is also formally backing the idea.

Unfortunately a Guardian endorsement does not always mean an idea is actually going to happen, and both possible future Tory leaders, as well as Jeremy Corbyn, have expressed no interest at all in using citizens’ assemblies.

The first citizens’ assembly for Wales is a landmark event and an important step on our devolution journey.

Public engagement is at the heart of the national assembly’s work. We want people in all parts of Wales to get involved with the democratic process by sharing their views and ideas with us.

3.58pm BST

Here is the story by my colleagues Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot on the offer by Labour peers to help Jeremy Corbyn address the antisemitism issue.

Related: Leading Labour peers offer to hold antisemitism inquiry

BREAKING: ⁦@UKLabour⁩ peers call for an independent complaints system for #anti-semitism and offer to help set it up pic.twitter.com/3OtaWraDMD

3.46pm BST

These are from my colleague Rowena Mason.

NEW Labour’s leaders in the House of Lords have written to Jeremy Corbyn offering peers to investigate antisemitism in the party and advise on a new complaints system, warning him that without decisive leadership it is a “cancer that will continue to grow” > story soon

The letter is signed by Labour’s leader in the Lords, Angela Smith, and Tommy McAvoy, the chief whip, both in the shadow cabinet, plus Diane Hayter, deputy Lords leader, and Toby Harris, chairman of the peers group. The letter is copied to all Lab peers as well as Corbyn’s office

The 4 senior peers say: “It is now a toxic and endemic problem that we have failed to eradicate. Whatever action has been taken has failed to give confidence to Jewish and non Jewish members alike that there is an absolute determined will to effectively deal with their concerns.”

They are offering:
1) A Lords panel to review the Panorama allegations with full access to existing and former party staff, as well as all paper and electronic records
2) Lords experts to set up a new complaints process 3) Advice on improving party’s governance arrangements

3.28pm BST

In an article for the Big Issue, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary and Tory leadership candidate, says as PM he would spend £30m rolling out a new approach to homelessness in London and two other cities. He explains:

I want to roll out the Housing First Approach that has been trailed in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Manchester.

This approach operates on the basis of two key principles. That housing is basic human right, and that once homelessness is resolved other clinical and social issues will be resolved faster.

3.21pm BST

And this is from the Labour MP David Lammy on the Trump tweets.

Too often people are more allergic to the term racism than the acts of racism themselves. Trump’s tweets, calling for Congresswomen of colour to “go back”, were not “racially-charged” or “racially-loaded.” They were racist. Silence is complicity. https://t.co/6qqfjDbTEC

3.18pm BST

This is from Nick Boles, the former Conservative MP who now sits as an independent.

We are about to find out if @BorisJohnson puts his desire for a trade deal with the US above British values. If he does not condemn Trump’s racist comments, any protestations of his commitment to diversity and equal respect will be totally hollow.

3.15pm BST

This is from Tortoise’s Polly Curtis, who has been watching the morning news programmes in New York.

The anchor on CNN now asking: “How come we’ve heard from Theresa May and next to no Republicans?”

2.21pm BST

Getting back to the UK and reading a raft of stories that assume Boris will be next PM. Don’t! We have been getting huge numbers of switchers, won both the ITV debate and Neil interview and this all depends on how far Boris was ahead at start which no one knows…

NEW – Over 200 current and former Labour staff and supporters write to condemn Labour’s handling of the Panorama documentary, accusing them of trying to “smear Jewish victims” and posing 5 questions for Corybn to answer pic.twitter.com/ud1ZuIz5pF

1.53pm BST

This is from my colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels.

Commission president candidate Ursula von der Leyen has said she would support a Brexit extension if “good reasons”.

That’s a very logical position, as decision would be taken by EU leaders. And extension is a very hypothetical question. pic.twitter.com/mVrugI7yN3

1.43pm BST

UK in a Changing Europe, an academic network, have been holding a Brexit conference today. Here are some of the highlights.

. @bernardjenkin: the UK would reject the EU with greater force in a further referendum #BrexitConstitution pic.twitter.com/85IqFgTkHS

. @bernardjenkin: the variety of our newspapers is something we should celebrate, the BBC is another matter and has an institutional bias on the EU issue #BrexitConstitution pic.twitter.com/B2ztLGoSlc

. @bernardjenkin: a basic goods agreement with the EU, leading to a more comprehensive one, would include ongoing harmonsation with EU rules until we reached a deal later #BrexitConstitution pic.twitter.com/QgtvcUlFMn

. @bernardjenkin: the cosy relationship between business and politicians has got to change, the public has lost faith in big business #BrexitConstitution pic.twitter.com/0xhY2Pt5NT

. @Gus_ODonnell: there is a basic knowledge gap on trade in this country, but we also need a more economically literate foreign office #BrexitConstitution pic.twitter.com/8BxmIwwwZD

1.04pm BST

Sir Vince Cable, the outgoing Lib Dem leader, has just told the BBC’s Politics Live that he expects to see more MPs defecting to his party “before the summer is out”. There were a small number of Tory and Labour MPs who have given up on their parties, he said. But he would not be drawn on reports that the Tory MPs Phillip Lee and Guto Bebb are poised to switch if (as expected) Boris Johnson becomes party leader next week.

12.57pm BST

Jo Swinson, a candidate in the Lib Dem leadership contest, has denounced President Trump as a racist.

The President of the United States is a racist. Every political leader should call this out. Will you @BorisJohnson? #JoinJo https://t.co/d9nV1Btcem

12.48pm BST

Nadhim Zahawi, an education minister and a supporter of Boris Johnson, told the BBC’s Politics Live that he thought President Trump’s tweets were “inappropriate”. But he would not describe them as racist, and argued that British politicians should not get involved in domestic internal politics, BuzzFeed’s Alex Wickham reports.

Nadhim Zahawi on #PoliticsLive says Trump’s tweets were “inappropriate” but won’t call them racist… says it’s a domestic US issue and UK politicians should not interfere

Donald’s Trump tweets on congresswomen: Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi says the UK should not “interject” in US politics

“This is inappropriate; it is not language I would use. I am condemning it, but this is domestic US policy” #politicslive https://t.co/UsAVE8BsOK pic.twitter.com/6l2VH47N1k

12.41pm BST

From my colleague Jessica Elgot

New – Understand Labour staff in the GMB union branch are to propose a motion this week condemning the party’s response ex-staff speaking to Panorama

As per ace @PaulBrandITV scoop, the Labour staff GMB branch motion on anti-semitism, Panorama and the use of NDAs is very strong. pic.twitter.com/zp6r9bJazG

12.38pm BST

Theresa May is famously reserved. Even before she became prime minister she was notorious amongst journalists for her reluctance to any anything indiscreet – Nick Robinson once turned down a lunch with her when she was home secretary and he was BBC political editor because he thought it would be a waste of time – and as PM she has got through countless interviews giving almost nothing away.

But another rather less well-known characteristic of hers is that she is, in the words of Tory journalist Matthew Parris, “a good hater”. As Parris explained last year in a very good Times article (paywall) about his various encounters with her:

I learnt that this well-mannered woman was a good hater. At the mention of a particular colleague’s name her lip curled, she made no attempt to conceal her dislike, and rather seemed to enjoy the disdain.

12.06pm BST

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, says Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt should both also condemn President Trump’s racist tweets. (See 11.48am.)

She’s right. And both men vying to be her successor should say so. https://t.co/hEtt4yp9HM

11.59am BST

Unusually Theresa May, via her press secretary, managed to issue a condemnation of President Trump’s latest outrage before Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, who is normally much more ready to denounce him. But Sturgeon has now issued her own criticism on Twitter.

The President of the United States telling elected politicians – or any other Americans for that matter – to ‘go back’ to other countries is not OK, and diplomatic politeness should not stop us saying so, loudly and clearly. https://t.co/HorD7wQOvP

11.48am BST

This is from the BBC’s Nick Eardley who is just back from the Downing Street lobby.

NEW: PM hits out at @realDonaldTrump tweets to US congresswomen. Official spokesman says President’s comments “completely unacceptable”.

Related: ‘Go back home’: Trump aims racist attack at Ocasio-Cortez and other congresswomen

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

…handled. I told @theresa_may how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster! I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far…

11.31am BST

Sir Vince Cable has got a new job for when he stands down as leader of the Liberal Democrats next week. Birmingham City University has just announced that he will be joining them as a visiting professor at their Centre for Brexit Studies. “Sir Vince will take up the position this summer and will focus on looking at the economics and scenarios related to Britain’s exit from the EU,” the university says.

11.17am BST

From BuzzFeed’s Alex Wickham

Have checked with Johnson/Hunt teams and as of 11am neither are criticising Trump’s racist tweets (maybe they will be asked at tonight’s debate)

Hours *after* the tweets, Team Johnson briefed out that ‘resetting relations’ with Trump is one of his first priorities as PM…

10.56am BST

This week the Guardian is running a series called the real Boris Johnson. You can read all today’s articles here. They are all good, including Jennifer Rankin and Jim Waterson’s article about how he made his names as a Brussels correspondent filing wilfully misleading stories about the EU.

On the same theme, Martin Fletcher has written an article for Tortoise listing some of those exaggerated stories. But the highlight is probably this final paragraph, from the further reading box.

Last year Der Spiegel admitted that one of its star reporters, Claas Relotius had likely embellished reports and fabricated entire events for years. He apologised, was stripped of various awards, and is not currently running for high office in Germany.

10.43am BST

In his Daily Telegraph column (paywall) Boris Johnson says that, if he becomes prime minister, his first budget would include tax breaks for firms that spend money helping their employees deal with stress and mental health problems. He says:

As things stand, mental health and occupational health services are taxable as benefits in kind. That means they incur both income tax and national insurance.

At most, employers can get a modest reimbursement of £500, but only if an employee is off for more than 28 days – a hopeless incentive, since the whole objective should be to keep the employee in the workplace, or to ensure that time off is as brief as possible.

10.16am BST

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has insisted that the Iran nuclear deal is not yet dead. Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, and referring to the agreement, he said:

Well, it isn’t dead yet.

And we are totally committed to keeping the Middle East denuclearised.

10.10am BST

Here are my colleagues John Crace and Marina Hyde on Liam Fox’s Today interview.

When Boris is being fact-checked by Liam Fox, you know the country is in even worse a state than you feared https://t.co/mUBFCNCL5u

Of all the indignities this leadership contest has forced us into, the fact that I have now twice had to nod in agreement with Liam Fox is possibly the most despair-inducing

9.56am BST

In his Today interview Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, also said there was no need for Sir Kim Darroch, the ambassador to Washington, to be replaced by a career diplomat. A politician could do the job, he suggested.

I’ve always thought that we should be using a wider range of people in some of our diplomatic posts … Some senior members of parliament have gone on to take up posts, for example the high commission in Australia, and have been very successful at doing so.

9.32am BST

The Times story saying that Boris Johnson would try to agree a partial UK-US trade deal by 31 October, covering just one area of trade, is sourced to an unnamed ally of Johnson’s. (See 9.20am.) Asked to comment by the paper, the Johnson campaign did not confirm or deny the story, but insisted they were just focusing on winning the leadership election.

However, this morning campaign sources are being more definitive. “It’s not from us,” a senior figure told me, adding that the story was “nonsense”.

9.27am BST

In his Today interview Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, was also asked about a recent claim by Boris Johnson, the favourite in the Tory leadership contest, that the UK should try to get the US to adopt British food standards in a trade deal. At a hustings last week Johnson said:

I don’t want us to do any deal with the US which in anyway jeopardises our animal welfare standards or our food hygiene standards. The quality of food in this country must be protected and if anything we should be insisting that if the Americans want to trade with us they should be obeying our standards.

Well, I think if you go to the US and you say we are going to take any discussions on agricultural access off the agenda, you’ll find that they close down pretty quickly in terms of their willingness to discuss things. When you go into a trade negotiation, both sides will have their asks, both sides will have their defensive elements, but it is certainly true that we should be trying to get an agreement with the United States as quickly as we possibly can.

9.20am BST

Today the Times splashes on a story (paywall) claiming that Boris Johnson plans to make “resetting relations with President Trump one of his first acts in Downing Street” and that he wants to negotiated a limited trade deal with the US in time for when the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. Here’s an extract.

Under plans being discussed by Mr Johnson’s team he would strike a limited trade deal in “one area” of goods in time for October 31. He and Mr Trump would also establish the broad outlines of a fully fledged deal. “There is no question that the moment we leave on the 31st we should be in a position to get some kind of arrangement with the US,” the source said.

Monday’s TIMES: “Johnson to seek Trump deal in first move as PM” #bbcpapers #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/N74uoaDp37

We can’t negotiate anything with the US until after we’ve left the European Union … It would be in breach of European law for us to do that.

You’ve got the added complication, just remember, that we’re now getting very close to the American pre-election year where it is quite hard to get things through congress. So even if you negotiate them quickly, you would not necessarily be able to ratify them.

Continue reading…

Jeremy Hunt puts focus on trust in major interview as Boris Johnson faces questions – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments, including the latest from the Tory leadership contest and Boris Johnson’s LBC phone-in

8.22pm BST

That’s all from us this evening. You can read my brief summary of the Jeremy Hunt interview here and the more detailed point-by-point takes in the subsequent posts. Or, if you prefer your news in the form of a single, perfectly crafted article, my colleague Jessica Elgot has produced one of those:

Related: Jeremy Hunt says Boris Johnson can’t be trusted on Brexit

8.05pm BST

And Hunt risks reigniting the row over his views on abortion, refusing to rule out backing moves to cut the legal time limit. He has previously been criticised for arguing in favour of the move at a time when the UK government was facing calls to give women in Northern Ireland the right to an abortion.

He says it’s a matter of public record that he voted for the time limit to be reduced from 24 weeks to 12 in 2008, but says he wouldn’t “seek to change the law” as prime minister. He does not, however, rule out backing someone else’s attempts to do so.

How I vote in any future private member’s bill would be a matter of conscience and I would have to see what that bill is before I make that decision.

7.52pm BST

Kuenssberg presses Hunt on how he will pay for the significant spending promises he has made. He says he wants to “cut taxes on ordinary people” but still spend vast sums on various social projects.

And the only way that you can afford all of those things is to fire up the British economy. And, as someone who set up their own business, I want to help thousands more young people set up their businesses. Let me just give you this one example, Laura: We’re growing at 1.5% a year at the moment. If we were growing at 3% a year, which is the American growth rate, we’d have an extra £20bn to spend on public services or tax cuts. All conservatives want to do both of those things and that’s why my first focus is to really grow the economy.

No, I will follow a fiscal rule that is very clear that debt will continue to fall as a proportion of GDP over the cycle and we’ve costed these commitments very very carefully indeed.

When they made that move a number of years ago, their GDP per head was lower than ours. Now it’s nearly 50% higher than ours. So, this is the way that we fire up the economy: we create the jobs; we get the money for our precious public services like the NHS; transform our social care system; and find tax cuts. But there is no magic about this. If you don’t create the wealth you can’t spend it.

7.43pm BST

On social care, Hunt says he wants people to begin saving for it as they currently do for their retirement.

Well I negotiated a 10-year plan for the NHS and my next job if I’d stayed as health secretary was to a 10-year plan for the social care system. And I do think that councils need more money because I think we want to be a country where we know that as people get older they’re going to be properly looked after.

So I think there is a bit of public money. But it’s also about personal responsibility. I think we should be a country where people save for their social care costs, particularly those last few months, possibly years of their life when things can be very uncomfortable, very painful. Just In the same way they save for their pension. I think it should be something that people can opt out of but it should be an automatic thing.

I’d do a deal. If you’re prepared to save responsibly during your life, then we will cut those costs. Do the right thing. We need to be a country which rewards people who do the right thing and I think if we do that, if you look at where we were in the post-war period where many people didn’t save for their pensions, we’ve created a society where the majority of people do save for their pensions. That’s the change we need for social care.

7.35pm BST

Addressing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Hunt says that, while it’s not his preferred option, he would take it if he didn’t think a deal was possible by 31 October – even though he acknowledges it’d destroy people’s livelihoods.

I think that ‘31st of October come hell or high water’ is a fake deadline, because it’s more likely to trip us into a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit, and that would hand the keys to Jeremy Corbyn and then we’d have no Brexit at all.

But, in my case, how would I approach this: I think we’ll know very soon well before 31st October if there is a deal to be done along the basis I’ve said. If there isn’t and if no-deal is still on the table, I’ve been very clear: I will leave the European Union without a deal.

7.16pm BST

Asked about how he can bring together a negotiating team that includes Tories from across the UK, as well as the DUP, who Kuenssberg points out “fundamentally disagree with each other”, Hunt says:

Well, this is the big difference between the way I want to handle it and the way we handled it before because, yes, I think there is a deal that can unite all wings of the Conservative party and our friends in the DUP. But it’s got to be different to Theresa May’s deal. We can’t put forward a deal to Brussels unless they absolutely know that it could get through the British parliament.

Well, what Theresa May tried to do was a deal involving the backstop. I was in cabinet at the time and I supported her loyally but I never thought that was the right approach. What I’m talking about is a deal that doesn’t involve the backstop as it’s constituted at the moment, so it would be different.

7.12pm BST

Hunt is confronted about his claim he can renegotiate a deal the EU has repeatedly said is not open for renegotiation. He insists, as he has done before, that he’s being given a different message in conversations with European leaders.

When I talk to European leaders, what they say is: ‘look, it’s up to the UK to come up with a solution. But, of course, if you come up with a different solution, something that can work, when we’ll look at the whole package’.

It would be changing the backstop with some guarantees that we’re not going to have a hard border on the island of Ireland for completely obvious reasons. That approach is not too different to what Boris wants. I think it’ll be a technology-led solution.

I think everyone thinks that, within the next decade, we aren’t going to have big border checks when it comes to goods because we’re going to do all these things online, just like the rest of our lives is transformed. And that discussion is what do you do if there’s a disagreement about what technology can do, so you need some mechanisms that resolve those disputes.

But I think they know now that won’t get through Parliament. So what I’m saying is let’s not be negative, let’s not be pessimistic. There is a way we can do this but what we have to do is send the right prime minister to Brussels to have those negotiations, have those open discussions and then I think there is a deal to be done.

6.59pm BST

In his interview with the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, Hunt returns again and again to the question of character, insisting he can be trusted to negotiate a deal with the EU.

Boris and I want to change that deal and the judgement is: who is the person we trust as PM to go to Brussels and bring back that deal? It’s about the personality of our PM. If you choose someone where there’s no trust, there’s going to be no negotiation, no deal. And, quite possibly, a general election, which could mean we have no Brexit either. If you choose someone that the other side will talk to who’s going to be very tough, there will least be in negotiation and I believe this deal to be done.

I would never make those comments about a fellow candidate. I would serve Boris Johnson to the very best of my ability and make his prime ministership a success and I hope he’d do the same for me.

No I’m saying I am trustworthy and I do believe that I can be trusted to deliver this deal.

I am not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths to our partners in the EU. The point I made in that speech was it was totally inappropriate for an organisation that was set up to defend freedom to make it impossible for a member to leave. I will say tough things when I need to say tough things. But I’ll also preserve the relationship. I think I’ve also shown as foreign secretary that I can have good links with European countries. And that’s why I’m the right person to deliver Brexit.

6.39pm BST

In a week in which his opponent, Boris Johnson, has faced serious questions about his fitness for office, Jeremy Hunt has sought to place temperament and competence at the forefront of the debate in an interview with BBC that has just aired.

Here’s a brief summary of the lengthy exchange. I’ll put together more detailed posts on each soon:

5.15pm BST

5.13pm BST

From the Mail’s John Stevens

Has Boris Johnson only got one pair of socks?

Pictured at the hustings on Saturday and during today’s @talkRADIO interview with the same pair of socks on… both times with one inside out pic.twitter.com/Qy8XLrzfYy

4.54pm BST

John McDonnell has said he is “arguing the case” for Labour to support remain if there is a second referendum on Brexit. Address the Society for Motor Manufacturers & Traders summit in London, the shadow chancellor said the Brexit situation was “a complete mess”. He said:

The situation is deteriorating rather than getting better. My big concern is that in the Tory leadership election both candidates have kept no-deal on the table. No-deal, as far as I’m concerned, I think it will be catastrophic.

It’s a bloody mess, it’s a complete mess. What we are trying to do now is seeing whether or not there is a route through all of this.

4.47pm BST

And here is Jeremy Hunt’s reply to Boris Johnson. (See 4.42pm.)

Hi Boris, it’s good to talk. But no need for snail-mail, why not turn up to Sky tonight and I’ll give you full and frank answers?#BoJoNoShow https://t.co/Irnk8rgrIz

4.42pm BST

Ever since he launched his campaign for the Tory leadership Boris Johnson has been saying that he is committed to taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October. But there have been various hints along the way that this might be a promise that he does not expect to keep. At his campaign launch he refused to say he would resign if the UK did not leave by his deadline. A few days later, in an interview for the World at One, he said that it would be wrong “at this stage” to signal a willingness to delay again. At a meeting with business leaders, although Johnson said that he would go for a no-deal if necessary to meet the October deadline, some in the audience concluded he did not mean it. And last week the Evening Standard, edited by the former Tory chancellor George Osborne, said it was backing Johnson for party leader because it thought he would be more flexible on Brexit than any of the other candidates and because he had not “guaranteed” (it judged) Brexit by 31 October.

Well, now Johnson is firmly guaranteeing Brexit by 31 October. This morning in an interview he said it was a “do or die” commitment for him (see 2.11pm) and he has now released an open letter to Jeremy Hunt challenging him to commit, with Johnson, to ruling out any further extension.

If I become PM, we will leave the EU on 31st October, deal or no deal. Today I have asked @Jeremy_Hunt whether he will also commit to this date, no matter what. We must keep our promises to the British people and deliver Brexit – no ifs, no buts, and no second referendum. pic.twitter.com/YgRSfESSFY

4.03pm BST

Gordon Brown’s speech this morning to the Fabian Society/Hope Not Hate is, like most Brown speeches, well worth a read. My colleague Ben Quinn has written it up here, but here are some lengthy extracts which deserved a wider audience. The full text does not seem to be available on the web.

Unless [Johnson] specifically rules it out, he will almost certainly – and under the influence of his election guru – play the ‘English card’, whipping up English nationalistic fervour against Scotland for English votes that put at risk the union itself.

If the precedent was set by David Cameron with his posters of the Labour leader in the pocket of the Scottish first minister, think of a similar Lynton Crosby campaign for Johnson – the claim that a Corbyn minority government, dependent on SNP votes, would grant another independence referendum to the SNP.

Boris Johnson is not just defining his patriotism as being anti-European.

Look at what he has written on the union – not in the heat of the moment during a referendum, but continuously over 20 years. What his writing adds up to is a manifesto vehemently opposing the three constitutional pillars upon which today’s union is built: Scottish representation in the UK parliament, Scottish devolution and Scottish funding.

But Scottish nationalism plus English nationalism plus Welsh nationalism plus Ulster nationalism does not add up to a United Kingdom. Four nations united only by nationalism will not sustain the United Kingdom. It means a house divided that cannot stand for long.

If Britain is seen by us not just as traditionally tolerant and fair-minded but as outward looking, what do we find in the Farage brand of nationalism? A Britain that for him is glorying in isolation, viewing every institution with the word “European” or “global” in its title as “the enemy” or as hostile territory.

So where does this intolerant, divisive, inward-looking nationalism take us? It leads us exactly where divisive continental nationalisms led us in the past – to targeting and then blaming and demonising immigrants, foreigners and anyone who stands in the Farage way – and, of course, using language designed to induce uncertainty, fear and discord, rebutting any criticisms and countering any arguments with the now familiar trademark accusations of “betrayal”.

You can love your country without being made to feel you ever have to hate your neighbour.

In the 2014 Scottish referendum the nationalists proposed leaving the UK political union but said they wanted to keep the UK pound and to stay inside the UK custom union and the UK single market.

Now they are committed to a wholly separate Scottish pound and to abandon, in a quiet, almost furtive way the UK customs union and single market which has given us tariff-free, tension-free trade across the four nations for 300 years and prevented what now seems inevitable under independence: a hard border at Hadrian’s Wall separating Scotland and England and life reduced to an unending battle between us and them.

Even now there may be a way to reset our relationships with the world: recognising that trust has broken down because, in our representative democracies, political parties are no longer performing their traditional role of assembling and then aggregating public opinion to build an informed consensus.

And in their place, Facebook, Twitter and our social media give a spurious impression of direct democracy as if leaders and led are communicating with each other on equal terms. However, at its best the internet promotes a shouting match without an umpire and, at worst, an echo chamber isolating and reverberating the most extremist of views.

3.03pm BST

Here is the video of Boris Johnson talking about his secret model bus-making habit.

2.38pm BST

At Foreign Office questions in the Commons this morning Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, cracked a joke about Boris Johnson’s late-night row with his girlfriend on Thursday last week. Addressing Jeremy Hunt, she said:

It gives me an opportunity to congratulate the foreign secretary directly, not just for being in the final two, getting into the final two, but also being the only candidate who has the police outside his house for the right reasons.

2.34pm BST

Boris Johnson is campaigning this afternoon in Surrey, according to his team.

2.19pm BST

These are from the Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar and PoliticsHome’s Kevin Schofield on today’s shadow cabinet meeting.

Labour update: No big announcement expected from shadow cabinet on 2nd ref – “white smoke” hinted at by @johnmcdonnellMP.
Instead, reports of angry exchanges in room. Looks like unions – namely PV sceptic @LenMcCluskey – successfully persuaded Corbyn to kick can down road.

Have had it confirmed that no decision was taken at Shadow Cabinet on Labour’s Brexit position, off the back of stalemate in talks with Unite yesterday.
One MP says: “Is it the Shadow Cabinet for Her Majesty’s Opposition or the Shadow Cabinet for Unite?”

2.11pm BST

Here are the main points from Boris Johnson’s two radio appearances this morning, on LBC and on TalkRadio.

I think that it follows from everything that I’ve said, that I think politics is at a crossroads in this country.

I think a bit of positive energy would help, frankly. I’ve never seen such morosity and gloom from a government. For three years we’ve been sitting around wrapped in defeatism telling the British public that they can’t do this or that. It is pathetic, it’s absolutely pathetic.

[We need] more than a change. It’s got to be, you know, we need a new withdrawal agreement. If we’re going to go out on the basis of a withdrawal agreement.

We are open for talks when it comes to the declaration on the future UK-EU relations if the position of the United Kingdom were to evolve, but the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.

Well, he’s right in the sense that Gatt article 24 paragraph males it perfectly clear that two countries that are in the process of beginning a free trade agreement may protract their existing arrangements until such time as they have completed any free trade agreement. And that’s a very hopeful prospect. That is the way forward …

Where Mark is right is saying that implies mutuality, there has to be agreement on both sides.

I don’t know whether [Carney] said it’s not an option. People are wrong if they say it is not an option …

What you can’t do is unilaterally [have] a Gatt 24 solution. But what you could do is agree with our EU friends and partners to go forwards together on that basis.

Most important aspects of Boris’s interview with @bbclaurak and @NickFerrariLBC is confirmation that GATT 24 cannot be used unilaterally

This is a significant shift from the position over the weekend

Thread: When will people realise that with this GATT Article XXIV row we’re simply re-running the Vote Leave playbook from the 2016 referendum? Cast your minds back to 2016, when the main thing infuriating fact checkers was the £350m on the side of the Vote Leave bus 1/

Politics has totally changed since March 29. We are staring down the barrel of defeat. Look at what happened in the European elections, in the council elections. My party, the Conservative party, was on 9% in the European elections. Every Tory MP understands that. And it is not as though Labour are doing that much better. They’ve got the Liberal Democrats ahead of them … So the challenge for us all in parliament is to get this thing done.

Then what you’ve got to do is look at the money, which is at the high end of [the EU’s] expectations, £39bn. And I think we need a bit of creative ambiguity about when and how much of that money is going to be paid, and what kind of deal it would be payable for.

There is one candidate standing in this contest who represents a fresh way of actually getting us out of the mire and who will deliver Brexit on October the 31st. I’m afraid the other candidate who is standing would simply kick the can down the road.

This is the biggest load of codswallop I have ever heard.

I have met Mr Bannon in the White House when he was chief of staff to the president as you would expect, in the course of my duties as foreign secretary …

It is perfectly true that when the president came to this country last year Steve Bannon texted me on a couple of occasions trying to fix a meeting. I texted back to say that meeting was not possible.

And yet this is turned by people who wish to stop me from achieving what I want to achieve into some crazy kind of alt-right conspiracy involving me and Steve Bannon. Anybody who looks at my record knows that I’m a progressive, modern Conservative.

1.38pm BST

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and arch-Brexiter, has been appointed chair of the Boris Johnson campaign, it has just announced.

12.47pm BST

Germany will fight to the last hour to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal and is willing to hear any fresh ideas for the Irish border backstop, the country’s ambassador to the UK has said.

Speaking at the car manufacturers summit in London, Peter Wittig said Germany cherished its relationship with the UK and was ready to talk about solutions the new prime minister might have over the Irish border.

My country is ready to talk, and chancellor [Angela Merkel] once said she would be willing to talk to the last hour not to have a no-deal scenario.

It’s a mindset. We are not giving up on achieving an orderly Brexit.

We can’t be more specific. It is now the turn of the UK government to come up with the plan and talk to us [the EU].

Our mindset is to explore all pathways to come to a negotiated deal.

12.36pm BST

The Conservative party has just sent out this press release saying that the winner of the leadership contest will be announced on Tuesday 23 July. It says:

Following the first membership hustings in Birmingham on Saturday, there will be 15 more taking place across every region and nation of the UK over the next four weeks.

In addition, a digital hustings will be held on Wednesday 26 June. This will be open to questions from the public ensuring non-members get the opportunity to put questions to the future leader of the Conservative party. The digital hustings will be hosted by freelance journalist Hannah Vaughan Jones and will be live-streamed on the Conservative party’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

12.34pm BST

Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson’s rival in the Tory leadership contests, says he will take questions from people on Twitter this evening as a substitute for the debate that Sky News was planning to hold but which got cancelled because Johnson would not attend.

Tonight I was meant to be debating Boris Johnson on Sky, answering questions about our plans for Britain. Sadly, Boris has pulled out – which I don’t believe is fair on you, the public. So from 8pm I will be answering as many of your questions as poss – tweet me using #BoJoNoShow

12.21pm BST

The most unusual revelation from the two Boris Johnson interviews we’ve had this morning came in the TalkRadio one, where Ross Kempsell asked Johnson what he did to relax. Johnson said that he painted, and that he liked making models of buses. He explained:

I get old wooden crates … and I paint them and they have to contain two wine bottles. And it will have a dividing thing. And I turn it into a bus and … I paint the passengers enjoying themselves.

12.09pm BST

Boris Johnson has also given an interview to TalkRadio in which he said getting Britain out of the EU by 31 October was a “do or die, come what may” commitment for him.

A full summary of everything in the LBC and TalkRadio interviews is coming soon.

12.06pm BST

Here is Jeremy Corbyn on Boris Johnson’s tax policies.

After nine years of austerity, Boris Johnson’s first flagship policy is to give £10 billion to the richest – taking even more from our public services.https://t.co/Yr1zCGezmk

11.38am BST

Today the Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a report saying that Boris Johnson’s promise to cut taxes for millions of higher earners would cost £9bn and benefit the richest 10% of households in Britain most. This was a promise that Johnson first unveiled in his Daily Telegraph column, which was written up by the paper as a front-page splash. Johnson has also proposed raising the threshold for paying national insurance – although, up to now, his campaign has not stressed this plan as much, and he has not said what the new threshold would be. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary who was also a leadership contender before being eliminated in the MPs’ ballot, said the threshold should rise to £12,500, and Johnson has not ruled this out as a target. The IFS says this policy would cost at least £11bn.

The full IFS report is here (pdf), and its summary is here.

Raising income tax higher threshold to £80k costs £9bn. Chart shows most gainers in highest income 10%.

While only 8% of people gain immediately perhaps a quarter will gain at some point in their lives, or live with someone who does. Incomes vary over lifetimes. pic.twitter.com/jpmp2VoArp

I don’t recognise those figures. Those aren’t the figures that I have seen.

We will bring forward a tax proposal, a package, that actually begins by lifting thresholds for those on lowest pay.

I just remind you that when I was mayor … we massively expanded the London living wage. We put millions of pounds in the pockets of some of the poorest families in our cities, and we brought the city together. And what I want to do as prime minister, if I’m lucky enough to serve, is to bring the whole of the country together.

10.39am BST

This is what political journalists and commentators are saying about the Boris Johnson LBC phone-in.

From Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov

5 minutes in and Boris Johnson has yet to answer a question. #lbc

By my count, @NickFerrariLBC asked Boris Johnson *23 times* about the picture of him and girlfriend Carrie Symonds without getting a definitive answer.

When was it taken? Did he give it to the press?

23 times. No answer.@LBC pic.twitter.com/r7BAt9UgmN

Slightly odd @BorisJohnson pitch – vote for me and I’ll revive @Labour in the polls along with @Conservatives

Quite fascinating to hear Boris Johnson on LBC placed under sustained, pressured questioning even on a mini-issue – where did the seemingly staged pic on most p1s today come from? – and listen to the sheer scale of flanneling, distraction and attempts to change the subject.

After a long and woolly discussion of tariffs and Gatt 24, Boris Johnson ends by saying: “Let’s be more positive about this. It’s time this country stopped being so down about it’s ability to get this done.”

This is the pitch in brief: optimism.

Boris Johnson’s big pitch to Tory MPs & members is he’s the great communicator. Such politicians don’t have to give you endless policy details – eg Reagan – but they need to deliver a broad message. And on LBC just now I didn’t really get that. It all felt very defensive.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer why Boris Johnson has been in hiding. He really doesn’t have a clue on Brexit. Or much else.

One positive I would take from these appearances from Boris. Brexit aside, (and admittedly it’s a very big aside), it’s clear he does want and plan to position himself at the political centre. Whether he’s got the discipline to stay there when under pressure is another matter.

On thing I don’t understand about Boris strategy. His entire brand is being built around the mantra “Boris can do it!”. But what happens when he runs into reality. When the Irish and the rest of the EU and the Commons don’t budge, (and they won’t). What’s left. What’s his USP.

.@BorisJohnson told @bbclaurak last night he wd follow Reagan’s 11th commandment (no conservative shall speak ill of another conservative).
A few hrs later, he goes for @Jeremy_Hunt on @lbc: “The other candidate who is standing would simply kick the can down the road” on Brexit.

Not sure from interviews so far Boris Johnson has his messaging right. Hunt’s is claw-your-face-off obvious – entrepreneur, negotiator, trustworthy – which he repeats as many times as Sadiq Khan said “son of a bus driver.”

But what is Johnson’s? Apart from “I’m Boris Johnson”

In fairness, that has usually beaten “son of an x”, “I’m bland pro-biz candidate” in his other run offs. Being Boris is basically the proposition. Let’s see

10.33am BST

The Mirror’s Dan Bloom has a transcript of the extract from the phone-in where Boris Johnson was refusing to answer questions about the row with his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and the photo released to the media intended to show that they were reconciled.

FULL TRANSCRIPT – Boris

– Refuses 4 times to say where ‘staged’ photo came from
– Refuses 5 times to say if he knew it was being put out
– Refuses 3 times to say when it was takenhttps://t.co/QXjcHMK5OQ

10.19am BST

Britain’s most senior police officer, Cressida Dick, has defended the neighbours of Boris Johnson’s partner after they recorded the couple having a row and reported it to the police, my colleague Matthew Weaver reports.

Related: Cressida Dick defends neighbours over Boris Johnson recording

10.11am BST

The phone-in over-ran by about five minutes.

In the closing section, Johnson criticised Jeremy Hunt, claiming that on Brexit Hunt’s policy just amounted to kicking the can down the road.

10.08am BST

Q: Is it true you have taken advice from Steve Bannon, the far-right former Trump adviser?

Johnson describes this story as “codswallop”.

10.03am BST

Q: What do you say about the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of the cost of your tax plan?

Johnson says he does not recognise the IFS figures.

10.00am BST

Q: Can you promise that some of the Brexit bonus money going to the NHS goes to dementia services?

Johnson says “of course” he stands by the claim Brexit will release £350m a week for the NHS.

9.57am BST

Q: Should LGBT education continue in schools?

Johnson says people should be able to love who they want. He says he does not approve of children being taken out of school to miss these lessons.

9.56am BST

Johnson is now defending his previous record.

He says the Garden Bridge idea was a good one, and could have gone ahead with private funding.

9.55am BST

Johnson is now on Brexit.

He says “creative ambiguity” is needed over when the UK will pay the £39bn to the EU.

9.47am BST

Johnson said he backed Sajid Javid’s plan to hire 20,000 more police officers. But he refused to set a timetable for when they might arrive.

9.46am BST

Nick Ferrari says Boris Johnson has been described as a coward for not doing interviews.

Q: Are you a coward?

Today’s ⁦@EveningStandard⁩ as a picture of the happy couple emerges pic.twitter.com/Yjxa99Ng9B

9.30am BST

Boris Johnson is about to start a half-hour LBC phone-in, hosted by Nick Ferrari.

9.29am BST

Gordon Brown, the Labour former prime minister, has been giving a speech this morning saying that, if Boris Johnson were to become prime minister, the United Kingdom could break up. He has written a preview of what he will be saying in the Daily Mail, and I will cover more from the speech later.

‘A tolerant country must not now become an intolerant one. An outward-looking country must not now turn in on itself.’ ⁦@OfficeGSBrown⁩ on extreme division in the UK. ⁦@hopenothate⁩ ⁦@thefabianspic.twitter.com/MsjdlFeyeU

9.06am BST

After weeks of maintaining a low profile, Boris Johnson, the clear favourite in the Tory leadership contest, is now starting to speak out a bit more and last night he gave a major interview to the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg. You can read our write-up here, the BBC’s write-up here, and the full transcript here. And you can watch the whole interview here. I will be writing more about it later, as well as covering what Johnson says in his LBC phone-in at 9.30am.

This morning Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary and a Jeremy Hunt supporter, told the Today programme that Johnson had not done enough to persuade people he had a convincing plan to deliver Brexit. She said:

This is an incredibly difficult situation and Boris needs to explain how he will deal with both sides of the Conservative party that have concerns and try and break the impasse with the European Union. Enthusiasm and optimism is not sufficient.

Related: Amber Rudd calls on Boris Johnson to reveal Brexit plan

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