Dominic Raab swiped at ‘unreliable’ Tory leadership rivals today as he insisted the UK must not be ‘humiliated’ by the EU any more.
Taking aim at Mr Johnson, the former foreign secretary and leadership front-runner Mr Raab said he was ‘the conviction Brexiteer with a plan’, adding: ‘We’re up against it and we won’t deliver Brexit with bluff and bluster.’
In his keynote launch speech on Monday, he slammed Theresa May for a ‘loss of nerve’ in the negotiations – and said he would be prepared to face down Parliament if it tried to block No Deal.
The bullish pitch came as the Tory leadership battle hit a new gear, with nominations formally opening.
Front runner Mr Johnson has vowed to get the UK out of the EU by the end of October with or without a deal.
But Mr Raab played on concerns among some MPs that Mr Johnson lacks determination to follow through, saying: ”I’m the Brexiteer you can rely on.’
In a searing assessment of Mrs May’s handling of the talks so far, Mr Raab said he would demand the EU backs down on the Irish border backstop.
‘We have suffered a loss of nerve,’ he told the audience. ‘We need new leadership. That leadership needs to be bold.’
Mr Raab has come under fire for refusing to rule out suspending Parliament to prevent MPs from blocking a No Deal.
He acknowledged that the Commons had managed to stop the government leaving without a deal at the end of March. But he insisted it would be ‘so much harder’ for MPs to block a ‘determined’ PM this time around.
Mr Raab also took aim at Mr Johnson over his pledge of tax cuts for higher earners. ‘My tax cuts are for the very poorest in work,’ he said.
Mr Raab also unveiled measures on the environment, which include a National Energy Research Centre to search for new ways to produce cheap clean energy, an increase in the Research and Development Expenditure Credit from 12 per cent to 13 per cent, and a dedicated £500 million International Wildlife Fund to boost biodiversity, species preservation, and nature conservation.
In his speech, he said: ‘We’ve got to look to the future. We’ve got to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.
‘The Luddite Labour party won’t come up with credible answers to climate change.
‘So, as Conservatives, we’ve got to harness the power of innovation and technology to forge an energy policy that makes environmental and economic sense.’
He will add: ‘As Conservatives, we must lead that change. We must own it.’
Mr Raab has previously focused on his plans to deliver Brexit if he was made PM, insisting on Saturday that the option of suspending Parliament to prevent MPs from trying to ‘sabotage’ Brexit should not be ruled out.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said the EU exit process was a ‘test of nerve’, and while it was ‘very unlikely’ that he would need to prorogue Parliament in order to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31, no option should be taken off the table.
He said he would go back to Brussels with a ‘best, final offer’, but if that did not work then he would leave without a deal.
David Davis was among the Raab supporters at the launch event in Westminster this morning
Adding: ‘What we can’t have is this paralysing uncertainty, bad for the economy, bad for trust in democracy, bad for the Conservatives – as we are seeing – of just going on and on with this prolonged torture of haggling with the EU when we haven’t got a deal in sight.’
And on the subject of drugs, he has said that Michael Gove’s cocaine admission should not bar him from the race, adding: ‘I rather admire his honesty.’
Mr Raab, who has previously admitted taking cannabis as a student, said: ‘It was a long time ago and pretty few and far between. I have never taken cocaine or any class A drugs.’
He said class A drugs ‘are a bit different’, but: ‘I’m not going to cast any further aspersions on Michael or anyone else who is just honest about being human and doing the things that some young people do – not everyone, obviously – and holding their hand up and saying ‘I got that wrong, move on’.’