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'I wanted Brexit before it was cool' - Essex MP enters Tory leadership race

PUBLISHED: 16:34 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 29 May 2019

Braintree MP, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and under secretary of state in the Department for Exiting the European Union James Cleverly in Westminster after he entered the Conservative leadership race, becoming the 11th candidate Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Braintree MP, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and under secretary of state in the Department for Exiting the European Union James Cleverly in Westminster after he entered the Conservative leadership race, becoming the 11th candidate Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Braintree MP James Cleverly has spelled out his vision for the country and Brexit as he became the 11th candidate to enter the Conservative leadership race.

Matt Hancock is the frontrunner of Suffolk MPs for Theresa May's job Picture: PAGEPIXMatt Hancock is the frontrunner of Suffolk MPs for Theresa May's job Picture: PAGEPIX

Joining Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock in launching a bid to be the next Prime Minister, Mr Cleverly revealed a no-deal Brexit is "not his preferred choice".

He tweeted: "A no-deal Brexit is deliverable but won't be easy or effortless, but no Brexit is worse.

"I came out for a Brexit in Jan 2016 (before it was cool) and always believed that leaving with a deal was the best option."

He also said he "completely disagrees" with Nicola Sturgeon over a Scottish independence referendum, adding: "I don't support second referendums."

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Brexit Minister James Cleverly and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and  former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, former House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse and Prime Minister Theresa May. Mr Cleverly was the 11th candidate to announce his bid to become the next Tory leader, replacing Mrs May. Picture: PA/PA WireFormer Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Brexit Minister James Cleverly and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, former House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse and Prime Minister Theresa May. Mr Cleverly was the 11th candidate to announce his bid to become the next Tory leader, replacing Mrs May. Picture: PA/PA Wire

The Brexit minister told the Today programme that no-deal "can be delivered, but not pursued".

"But it's also really important we understand that not delivering Brexit would be, in my mind, significantly more damaging, our political reputation with the country would be damaged," he added.

No-deal, he said, was "still one of the options" but urged "it is not my preferred destination".

He said: "Until we have delivered Brexit we will not have the legitimacy to talk about any of the other issues that we absolutely have to talk about."

MORE: Your questions on the PM race answered

Mr Cleverly announced his bid to join the Conservative leadership race in a letter to his constituents, published in the Braintree and Witham Times.

He wrote: "Both the country, and my party, are beset with division.

"We cannot bring the country back together unless the party of government is united, and the party cannot unite if it is led from its fringes.

"I believe the case for Brexit is still valid, and I have not wavered in that belief."

MORE: Who's in the running to become the next Prime Minister?

Elsewhere, leadership contender and international development secretary Rory Stewart said he was "signing up now" to the "clean campaign" pledge, adding: "This leadership contest without the voice of Boris Johnson is like the Today programme without John Humphrys...

"I think he is the favourite, he's the front runner, he's the real big beast here and he's the person that all of us have to stake out our positions against, he's the one to beat."

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