Boris Johnson, the lead contender to become Britain’s new prime minister, on Sunday stressed he was serious about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit under his leadership.
Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph that “we were pretty much ready on March 29. And we will be ready by October 31. And it’s vital that our partners see that.”
“They have to look deep into our eyes and think, ‘my god, these Brits actually are going to leave. And they’re going to leave on those terms,'” he said.
Johnson added that he thinks people’s fears and apprehension about leaving the bloc without an agreement “are overdone, I really do.”
The U.K. is currently on track to leave the EU on October 31, after the EU agreed to grant London an extension earlier this year. But the U.K. parliament is still deeply divided about the terms of Brexit, with no majority for any one course of action, including a no-deal Brexit.
A poll by YouGov for the Times put Johnson on track to win up to 74 percent of support from Conservative party members. His challenger, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is trailing at 26 percent, according to the poll. Results of the vote are expected on July 22.
In a separate interview published on Sunday, Hunt told the Sunday Telegraph that Johnson was losing support among some Conservatives because “they are recognizing that the safest and quickest way to leave the European Union is to send a prime minister to Brussels who has a chance of negotiating a deal, who the Europeans will engage with.”
But he agreed with Johnson that taking no deal off the table would weaken the U.K.’s position in talks with Brussels. “The best way to make sure we leave with a deal is to give our prime minister the strongest possible negotiating hand,” he said.
Both Johnson and Hunt have said they will seek to renegotiate the current deal on the conditions of Britain’s exit from the bloc. The European Commission, meanwhile, has insisted the Withdrawal Agreement it negotiated with Theresa May’s government is not open for renegotiation.