The contest to replace Theresa May as British prime minister hotted up on Saturday with seven candidates now throwing their hat into the ring, saying they would succeed where she failed by taking a deeply-divided Britain out of the European Union. May announced on Friday she was quitting over her failure to deliver Brexit, raising the prospect of a new leader who could seek a more divisive split with the EU and lead to confrontation with the bloc or a possible parliamentary election. May failed three times to get a divorce deal she agreed with the EU through parliament because of deep, long-term divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe. It meant the original Brexit date of March 29 has been extended until October 31 to see if any compromise could be reached. British health minister Matt Hancock, ex-Brexit minister Dominic Raab and former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom on Saturday joined an increasingly crowded field to replace May. Former foreign minister Boris Johnson, current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and former work and pensions minister Esther McVey had already announced they would stand. About a dozen contenders in total are thought to be considering a tilt at the leadership with newspapers reporting that environment minister Michael Gove was expected to announce his candidacy on Sunday.
Boris Johnson is the clear favourite with bookmakers and he has also said Britain should be prepared to exit the bloc without any deal if no acceptable agreement could be reached.
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks with Reuters at the Foreign Office in London, Britain May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Rory Stewart, Britain's Minister for Prisons, walks through Downing Street in London, Britain, November 6, 2018. He is now International Development Secretary. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo
Britain must quit the European Union at the end of October even if that means leaving without a deal, Conservative lawmaker Esther McVey, one of the candidates to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, said on Sunday.
Raab, a leading figure among pro-Brexit Conservatives, said he did not want to exit without a deal, but would do so if the EU refused to budge, a stance echoed by Leadsom, who quit the government on Wednesday over May's deal.
Britain's Conservative Party's leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom is seen outside Downing Street, as uncertainty over Brexit continues, in London, Britain May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
"We have to propose a deal that will get through this parliament," Matt Hancock told BBC radio. "We have to be brutally honest about the trade-offs."
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to deliver a statement in London, Britain, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson