Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt make final pitch to Conservatives

National News

Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson gestures while delivering his speech during a Conservative leadership hustings at ExCel Centre in London, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The two contenders, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are competing for votes from party members, with the winner replacing Prime Minister Theresa May as party leader and Prime Minister of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — The two men competing to be Britain’s next leader have held their final televised event in front of Conservative Party members who will decide the winner.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s former and current foreign secretaries, spoke and answered questions Wednesday in front of hundreds of Tories at a London conference center.

Johnson, the strong front-runner according to pollsters and bookmakers, repeated his vow to take Britain out of the European Union on the currently scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a replacement for Prime Minister Theresa May’s “defunct” divorce agreement.

May announced her resignation last month after her Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament three times.

Johnson drew applause and cheers with a speech that was short on details but high on energy, at one point waving a kippered herring as part of a convoluted point about EU trade regulations.

He said Britons wanted the government to “get on and deliver Brexit.”

Hunt, a less charismatic politician who has pitched himself as the serious, stable candidate, argued that he was the best person to revive talks with the EU.

“I want to get a deal, and so we have got to make some profound changes to that withdrawal agreement,” he said.

The EU says the deal it struck with May is not up for renegotiation, and neither candidate has been able to say how they plan to secure changes.

Both say they are prepared to leave the bloc without an agreement, a course most economists say would cause economic turmoil.

About 160,000 Conservative members have until Monday to vote by postal ballot. The winner will be announced Tuesday and will replace May as party leader and prime minister.

___

AP’s full coverage of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership race: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.