Boris Johnson's Tory rivals used a TV debate to hit him on his Brexit stance | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
Tory leadership frontrunner Johnson dodges first TV debate
Rivals question how former UK foreign secretary would get on with EU27 leaders.
Updated 6/16/19, 10:39 PM CET
LONDON — Rivals accused Boris Johnson, the favorite to become the U.K.’s next prime minister, of lacking the courage to successfully renegotiate Brexit, after he refused to attend the first television debate of the Conservative leadership contest.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who along with four other candidates did take part in the Channel 4 event on Sunday, questioned: “If Boris’s team won’t let him out to debate five pretty friendly colleagues, how will he get on with 27 EU countries?”
Johnson, who has said he will take part in a second TV debate on the BBC later this week, was represented by an empty podium.
In a fiery debate, Hunt and other candidates also clashed with former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab over his willingness to attempt to suspend parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit, if a hoped-for renegotiation with the EU fails.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the contest was not to choose “a dictator,” while International Development Secretary Rory Stewart — the one candidate to completely rule out no deal — accused his rivals of “a competition of machismo.”
Johnson is way ahead in terms of MP endorsements going into the next round of voting for a new Conservative leader on Tuesday.