Tory leadership hopeful Sajid Javid has said he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if concessions from Brussels cannot be secured.
The Home Secretary, one of a dozen Conservatives hoping to become the next prime minister, has set out his five-point plan to tackle the inevitable challenges facing Theresa May’s successor.
Top of his list is getting a Brexit deal through Parliament – as he rules out holding a second referendum, an early general election or revoking Article 50.
Writing in the Daily Mail, he says: “The voters have been asked their opinion more than enough times. Never in this country’s history have we asked people to go to the polls a second time without implementing their verdict from the first.
“Another vote before we leave would be disastrous for trust in politics, and cause the kind of chaos that risks handing Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-left supporters the keys to No 10.”
Mr Javid vows to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit – not because it is what he wants, but because “we have to accept the reality of our situation”.
This would include drawing up a “bold” no-deal Budget, and showing the EU that Britain is not afraid of walking away from negotiations.
But Mr Javid says he will still work to secure a deal and promises to focus efforts on working with Ireland to amend the backstop and come up with a “credible solution”.
“I would take every step possible to ensure we leave with a deal by October 31,” he says, but adds that his position is clear: “If we cannot get a deal, we should, with great regret, leave without one, having done everything we can to minimise disruption.”
Mr Javid is among a crowded field in the race to replace Mrs May, with other contenders including fellow Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart and Michael Gove.
The 49-year-old has also pledged to oversee 20,000 extra police officers “pounding the pavements” if elected prime minister, telling The Sun he would spend £1 billion over three years to put “police on the beat” and end a “culture of impunity” among criminals.
On Friday, former chief whip Mark Harper became the latest to announce his intention to stand for the top job after Mrs May resigns as Tory leader on June 7.
All the candidates have been warned of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit by the Confederation of British Industry.
The organisation’s director-general Carolyn Fairbairn used an open letter to say the next prime minister must seek an agreement with Brussels as the “vast majority of firms can never be prepared for no-deal”.
She said: “The next prime minister can only claim the Conservatives are the party of business if they secure a Brexit deal that protects the economy, jobs and living standards.
“Firms large and small are clear that leaving the EU with a deal is the best way forward.
“Short-term disruption and long-term damage to British competitiveness will be severe if we leave without one.
“The vast majority of firms can never be prepared for no-deal, particularly our SME (small and medium enterprise) members who cannot afford complex and costly contingency plans.
“We need compromise, consensus and honesty to resolve the Brexit impasse, quickly.”
Elsewhere, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said the number of candidates in the leadership race was becoming “a bit silly”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a very, very serious moment where we are choosing our next prime minister at the most difficult political time so anyone who is a candidate has to go straight from wherever they are through the door of Number 10.”
Sir Alan said the list needed to be thinned out, as “serious debate” was being crowded out.