With a crowded field and internal divisions, there are fears a split Brexiteer vote will pave the way for the centrists
Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, laid out plans to reduce the application of EU law in Northern Ireland, a move that would put the government on a collision course with Brussels.
Leading Brexiteers are divided over who would be the best Conservative leader candidate to campaign for Leave voters.
Home Secretary Priti Patel should join the leadership race – but only if the influential European Research Group (ERG) agrees to back her.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is also said to have been weighing a last-minute run for No10 as a ‘continuity Boris’ candidate – but decided against it on Monday. “I’m not standing. I want to unite the rights rather than break them further,” he said The Telegraph.
No candidate has yet received the solid backing of the Eurosceptic bloc within the Tory party. Ms Braverman has already called for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and promised on Monday to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol Act to limit the EU’s role in Northern Ireland.
She said: “As Prime Minister, I would make the changes to the NIP Act that I have campaigned for within Government to bring it fully in line with UK sovereignty.
“This means that from the first day after the law came into force, the EU would have no say over VAT and excise duties in Northern Ireland, and no say in how we regulate medicines.”
In a separate speech, Ms Braverman told activists: “Don’t vote for me because I’m a woman. Don’t vote for me because I’m brown. Choose me because I love this country and would do anything for it.”
The ERG held hustings with a number of contestants last night, including Ms Patel, who has insisted she is unsure whether or not to enter the competition. She told the group that when dealing with the EU the government should “have the guts of its beliefs” and not “buckle down” to Brussels on issues like Northern Ireland.
Steve Baker warned that with too many hard-line Brexiteer candidates leaving the field open for more centrist candidates, a tight race schedule is expected to see almost half of the candidates eliminated by Wednesday. He told the BBC: “There is a great risk of fragmentation.”
Liz Truss is also hoping to win the votes of the right-wing Leave supporters after more obscure contenders are eliminated. But a Penny Mordaunt ally pointed to the Foreign Secretary’s background as a Remain voter, saying: “I think Members will vote for someone who has been consistent in that regard, not a born-again Brexiteer.”
All candidates have rejected calls to renegotiate the Brexit deal altogether, such as the UK’s return to the EU’s single market or the customs union.