Tories to Choose New Prime Minister by Late July: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Britain will have a new prime minister by the end of July, as the Conservative Party moved to accelerate the leadership race and make sure Theresa May’s successor can crack on with Brexit as soon as possible.

Key Developments

  • Tories change leadership rules to speed up the contest; two candidates withdraw
  • Trade Secretary Liam Fox backs Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
  • Trump is due to meet Hunt; he asked for a meeting with rival candidate Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson turned him down after speaking by phone
  • Trump sees a "phenomenal" trade deal, but adds to controversy by saying the NHS would be on the table
  • Pound edges higher

New PM to Be Chosen Week of July 22 (7 p.m.)

The next prime minister will be chosen in the week of July 22, according to the ruling Conservative Party, which tightened up its leadership contest rules to accelerate the process.

The initial ballots -- in which members of parliament will whittle down the unusually crowded field -- will be held on June 13, 18, 19 and 20. Then the final two rivals will go to the party’s 120,000 members to pick the winner.

Tories Change Rules to Speed Up Election (6:15 p.m.)

A person familiar with the Tory leadership election process confirmed that the party is tightening its rules to speed up the process of whittling down the crowded field of candidates to replace May.

Under the changes, a candidate will need a minimum of 5% of Tory MPs supporting them to survive the first round of voting. Then, they would need at least 10% of the party’s MPs to make it through the second round, the person said.

Conservative MPs will put the two candidates with the most votes to the wider party of 120,000 members, who will then elect the leader. No target date has been set for the run-off between the final two candidates to begin, the person said.

Second Candidate Withdraws (5:50 p.m.)

Kit Malthouse, a housing minister, has withdrawn from the Conservative leadership race, the second candidate to pull out. There are still 11 in the field.

The party is considering changing the rules for the contest to speed it up, according to member of Parliament Michael Fabricant. The panel responsible for the rules was meeting on Tuesday.

Tory Contest Delays Spending Review (4:45 p.m.)

In another sign of the government grinding to a halt as a result of political turmoil, the Treasury hasn’t been able to set the revenue budget for next year, according to treasury minister Liz Truss.

Truss is Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in charge of what was supposed to be a three-year spending review designed to bring an end to austerity. It was meant to start before Parliament breaks up for Summer Recess, usually at the end of July. But that is now unlikely to happen because of the Tory leadership contest, she told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has already said the three-year review may be scaled back to a one-year plan if Brexit uncertainty continues. Truss said the government doesn’t have revenue budgets beyond April 2020, though it does have capital budgets for the years 2020 and 2021.

“We won’t need to set the capital budgets immediately. However, I would suggests that capital is very long term proposition and it’s important that any new prime minister gets on with that process,’ she said.

Anti-Brexit Party Splits After 106 Days (4 p.m.)

Change U.K., the anti-Brexit party formed by members of Parliament who split from Theresa May’s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in protest at their Brexit strategies has itself now split -- just 106 days after it was formed.

Anna Soubry, a former Conservative MP, is the new leader after Heidi Allen quit the party. Allen clashed with colleagues before last month’s European Parliament elections after she advocated tactical voting to elect as many anti-Brexit MEPs as possible.

Allen left the party, along with former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith. Former Tory Sarah Wollaston has also quit. The party now has just five MPs and is still “as determined to fix Britain’s broken politics as we were when we left our former parties,” Soubry said in an email.

“I’m deeply disappointed that at such a crucial time in British politics our former colleagues have made this decision,” Soubry said. “Now is not the time to walk away, but instead to roll up our sleeves and stand up for the sensible mainstream center ground which is unrepresented in British politics today.”

Tories Set to Change Rules to Speed Up Race: BBC (3:30 p.m.)

The Conservative Party is set to change the rules of leadership contests to narrow the crowded field and speed up the selection process, the BBC reports.

The so-called 1922 committee of rank-and-file lawmakers, which sets the rules, will make a decision at 5 p.m., the BBC said.

There are 12 candidates so far to replace May, making for a laborious process of preliminary ballots to whittle the list down to a final two. Tory members then choose the winner from the final two.

Cleverly Says Tories Won’t Skip a Generation (11:45 a.m.)

James Cleverly said he pulled out of the leadership because the party isn’t prepared to "make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP."

Cleverly, a junior Brexit minister, said the party needs to "deliver Brexit and then quickly move the conversation on to other important issues that face the country."

First of 13 Candidates Pulls Out, BBC Says (11 a.m.)

James Cleverly, a junior Brexit minister, has withdrawn from the leadership race, the BBC reported.

That still leaves 12 candidates in the running to replace May. Members of Parliament will whittle the list down to a final two, who are then put to Conservative party members in a ballot.

Leadsom: U.K. Must Be Ready for No-Deal (9:20 a.m.)

Former Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, who is campaigning to be Tory leader, said if elected she would seek to negotiate a deal with the European Union, but added: “to be successful in any negotiation, you have to be prepared to walk away.”

She said if the U.K. does leave the bloc without a deal, the money owed to the EU would be less than 39 billion pounds. About 10 billion pounds would be up for discussion with the bloc, she said.

Tory MP Greening Fears Hard-Brexit Leader (9 a.m.)

Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening told BBC radio the Conservatives are “engaged in the process of picking a hard-Brexit leader’’ as she ruled herself out of the leadership race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May.

Greening, a pro-EU MP who campaigns for social mobility, said she will continue to assess if she still has a place in the party.

Veteran Brexiteer Fox Backs Hunt (7:40 a.m.)

Veteran euroskeptic Liam Fox, one of the most high-profile Brexiteers not to have resigned from May’s Cabinet, said he backs Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be Conservative leader.

He told the BBC that a candidate pushing for a no-deal Brexit “would be very unpopular within the party.’’ Even so, Fox said the new Tory leader should be “ready to walk away’’ from the European Union with no deal “otherwise we have no negotiating hand.’’

Hunt is seen as a continuity candidate and one that’s more reassuring for business and markets than the hardliners such as Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab. Hunt voted Remain in 2016 but now says Brexit must be delivered. He says no-deal would be suicide for the Tories.

Coming Up:

  • May and Trump news conference at 1:45 p.m. We will be running a live blog.
  • Conservatives expected to set out timetable for ballots to narrow down leadership candidates to final two
  • Leadership candidates will pitch to the so-called One Nation group of centrist Tories on Tuesday night


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