St Helens Conservatives leader backing Boris for PM

Councillor Allan Jones
Councillor Allan Jones

The leader of the St Helens Conservatives has backed Boris Johnson to lead the UK out of Europe before the current deadline.

The race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party has now been whittled down to two candidates, Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Both candidates are currently embarked on a hustings tour around the UK as they make their pitches for Prime Minister to members of the party.

It will be up to the Conservative Party’s 160,000 members, including those in St Helens, to vote for their preferred candidate.

Rainford councillor Allan Jones, leader of the St Helens Tories, believes it is ‘critical’ for the future of the party that its elects someone who will deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline.

“I will support Boris and my wife will support Boris,” Coun Jones said.

“The reasons for that is we think we have to come out of Europe by the October 31.

“That is crucial for the future of our Conservative Party. We cannot be letting it go any further at all.

“I voted out. I voted leave. The people of Rainford collectively voted leave. The people of St Helens collectively voted leave.

“I would have liked to have left with a good deal. That is looking increasingly impossible.

“So, I would be quite happy if we just said, we will walk away.”

If the UK does not leave by the end of October, Coun Jones believes the Tories will lose support, particularly to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Coun Jones also believes the Brexit Party will “wipe the floor” with Labour.

“Boris said it himself, if we do not leave by October 31 we are in serious trouble,” Coun Jones said.

Mr Johnson has insisted that the UK will leave the EU by the end of October, ‘deal or no deal’.

His opponent, Mr Hunt, said he intends to try and renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, despite EU chiefs repeatedly saying it is not willing to do that.

The foreign secretary said he will only pursue a no-deal Brexit as a “last resort”, although he has stopped short of ruling out a further delay.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show last week, Mr Hunt said he was not going to commit to a “hard stop, any cost” exit from the EU.

Coun Jones said he does not believe a no deal will be as grave for the UK as has been widely predicted.

“I feel there is a lot of hype about how bad it is going to be if there is a no deal,” Coun Jones said.

“Sometimes in this life you just have to grasp the nettle and move forward. We have always been an island of resilience.

“There may be some issues to start with, but I do not think it is going to be a long-term problem.”

If Mr Johnson is named as the new Tory leader and Prime Minister, Coun Jones believes Mr Hunt should remain as foreign secretary.

Coun Jones also backed home secretary Sajid Javid, who was knocked out of the leadership race in the fourth round, to succeed Philip Hammond as chancellor.

He added that surprise leadership contender Rory Stewart, who has ruled out working with Mr Johnson due to his stance on a no deal Brexit, should also remain in cabinet.

“We have got to have a cabinet which is a broad church,” Coun Jones said.

“But we have got to have a leader who will take us out of the EU by the 31 of October, which will negate (Nigel) Farage.”

Mr Johnson has come under fire from several cabinet members over the weekend after being grilled on his Brexit plans.

During the first hustings event on Saturday, Mr Johnson said elements of the withdrawal agreement could be re-negotiated with the EU during a Brexit implementation period.

However, this was later dismissed by David Lidington, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Mr Lidington, who is effectively the deputy Prime Minister, pointed out on Twitter that the implementation period was part of the withdrawal agreement.

Justice Secretary David Gauke also tweeted that Mr Johnson’s Brexit plan was not “credible”

And on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, international trade secretary Liam Fox said there would be no Brexit implementation period without a withdrawal agreement.

He also rejected Mr Johnson’s claim that world trade rules could be used after Brexit to avoid tariffs.

Despite this, Coun Jones said he is “sceptical” to side with the international trade secretary.

Coun Jones said trading partners such as Germany would not want to apply “unworkable” tariffs.

He added that he believes the long-standing sticking point of the Irish border and the proposed backstop could be resolved by holding talks with the DUP.

“We just have to liaise with the DUP, it’s as simple as that,” Coun Jones said.

Conservative Party members will receive their postal ballots between July 6 to 8.

The winner of the leadership contest is expected to be announced on Monday, July 22.