Jeremy Hunt 'will hand power to Corbyn', says MP Owen Paterson
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson says the Conservative Party will lose a general election and hand power to Jeremy Corbyn if Jeremy Hunt wins the Tory leadership contest.
Mr Paterson said Mr Hunt was simply offering 'more of the same' in his bid to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister.
The former environment secretary said the party had no chance of winning a general election if Britain did not meet the deadline to leave the EU on October 31.
Mr Paterson, a leading member of the eurosceptic European Research Group, is backing Boris Johnson to become the next prime minister.
Mr Hunt has said he would consider extending the October 31 deadline if it meant securing a trade deal with the EU.
Mr Paterson said while there was much speculation about a general election later this year, the Conservatives would lose the right to be believed about anything if it did not keep its promises on Brexit.
"That choice is binary," he said.
"With Boris, we leave the EU and defeat Labour. With Hunt, we delay, forfeiting our right to be believed on anything, and get defeated by Corbyn."
Mr Paterson said Mr Hunt was repeating the mistakes of outgoing prime minister Theresa May, who twice agreed to delay Brexit from the original deadline of March 29 after failing to get her withdrawal agreement through the Commons.
"More of the same, sadly, appears to be exactly what is on offer from Jeremy Hunt," said Mr Paterson.
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"Where Boris is unequivocal on the importance of leaving on October 31, Hunt has branded it a 'fake deadline' in much the same way, presumably, as Theresa May regarded March 29.
"Comments like this should set alarm bells ringing in the ears of party members across the country."
Mr Paterson said it was failure to meet the previous deadlines for leaving the EU that led to the party losing 1,330 councillors and 44 councils in the local elections, the Tories' worst-ever national poll result at the European Elections, and defeat at the Peterborough by-election.
"The complacency of the 'fake deadline' attitude in the face of these results is baffling and infuriating," he said.