British leadership favourite Boris Johnson won the endorsement of a key Brexit-backing rival on Wednesday despite accusations he was softening his rhetoric on leaving the EU.
Ahead of another round of voting in parliament, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said Johnson was the “only candidate” to take Britain out of the European Union as planned on October 31.
On Tuesday Raab was eliminated from the contest to replace Theresa May as the leader of the ruling Conservative party and prime minister, leaving five candidates left.
One of them will be eliminated in another ballot of Conservative MPs later Wednesday, before further votes on Thursday to whittle the field down to a final pair.
Former foreign minister Johnson, a one-time mayor of London, is leading the pack after securing the support of 126 of 313 Tory MPs in Tuesday’s ballot.
A figurehead of the 2016 referendum campaign for Brexit, he insists there must be no more delays to Britain’s EU exit, after May postponed it twice.
During a television debate on Tuesday evening, Johnson said further delay would cause a “catastrophic loss of confidence in politics”.
But he declined to guarantee this would happen — and one of his main rivals, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, suggested afterwards that his position was not clear.
“I am not entirely sure what he believes on this, having listened to him last night,” Hunt told BBC radio.