Wales politics

Conservative leadership candidates: The view from Wales

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images/Reuters
Image caption Either Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will be named the new prime minister on Tuesday

The question of who is to lead the Conservative Party - and who will be the next prime minister - will be answered on Tuesday.

With Brexit gripping the House of Commons, much else has fallen to the periphery of the contest.

And beyond a single hustings held in Cardiff, issues relating to Wales have barely featured in the head-to-head between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Supporters of the candidates have emphasised their favoured candidate's ability to strike a deal with Brussels that the Commons can get behind.

With neither candidate ruling out leaving the European Union without an agreement in place, the Welsh Government has called for whoever wins to rule out a no-deal Brexit, warning of the potential economic damage it could cause.

Boris Johnson

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson is assumed by many to be the frontrunner in the contest

The candidate long-assumed to be the frontrunner in the election has been Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who once stood as a candidate for the Conservatives in the Welsh seat of Clwyd South.

One of his Welsh supporters, Monmouth MP David Davies, said he was "by far and away the better person to resolve the Brexit conundrum between now and the end of October".

He said the "overriding issue" for Wales was Brexit.

"At the moment the choice faced by MPs has been between a deal or staying in the European Union," he said.

"Boris is going to change this. The choice that MPs will face is a deal or leaving the European Union without a deal, and at that point many MPs will start to consider carefully what they really want."

Mr Johnson sparked a row in June when, at a Cardiff party hustings, he suggested London-based ministers should have a say in how the cash that replaces EU economic aid to Wales is used - although he said he'd match the money.

Mr Davies said he does not think Mr Johnson intends to take control of the replacement for economic aid.

"What we are doing is replacing Brussels with Westminster," he said, with powers brought back from Brussels devolved out to Cardiff.

"Obviously if the rules are being set in Westminster the Conservatives will have an influence over it as will Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberals."

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: "I've backed Boris as I believe he's the only person who can break the mould and bring some charismatic and positive leadership to unite not just our great party, but most importantly the family of nations we call the United Kingdom."

Jeremy Hunt

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Image caption Jeremy Hunt is the current foreign secretary

Montgomeryshire Tory MP Glyn Davies voted for the foreign secretary in the leadership ballot.

"I think a key issue for Wales is that we secure a deal with the European Union as we leave," Mr Davies said.

Asked what a Jeremy Hunt premiership would mean for Wales, Mr Davies said: "I would expect steady as you go - it would mean you would be leaving the European Union with a greater likelihood of a deal than perhaps if Jeremy Hunt wasn't a leader."

At the Cardiff hustings, Mr Hunt said Wales would not lose out on the replacement to EU funding, and he said he was against constantly chopping and changing what the constitutional settlement is.

But Glyn Davies said he did not think it meant Mr Hunt was against further devolution to Cardiff Bay.

"I know Jeremy Hunt quite well. I don't think he would have any antipathy to a discussion about the future of devolution and I don't think there's any suggestion at all that he's not perfectly supportive of the principle," said Mr Davies.

A general election before Christmas?

He speculated that if Mr Johnson was elected, a general election by the end of the year was on the cards.

"It's impossible at the moment to predict anything," said the MP, who is due to step down at the next Westminster poll.

"But I think Boris Johnson's position is so now firm that we must leave, its a do-or-die situation, I don't think there's a majority of members of the House of Commons who are in favour of leaving with no deal, and in that situation I can't see any way out of it except to have a general election."

What does the Welsh Government say?

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Welsh Government ministers have demanded that whoever takes residence in 10 Downing Street should rule out leaving the European Union without a deal.

Welsh Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles accused both candidates of threatening to "tear the UK out of the EU without a deal, mainly to please their own party, rather than putting the interests of the country first".

"This cannot be allowed to happen - we won't stand by and allow sustained growth in Welsh farming and food to be derailed by the reckless actions of a few," he added.

The Welsh Government said a no-deal Brexit could lead to a smaller economy, fewer jobs, export taxes on Welsh businesses, including significant tariffs on Welsh lamb and beef, and new regulatory barriers for Welsh business.

But David Davies said it would be "outrageous" for a no-deal Brexit to be ruled out, adding: "You might as well just rule out Brexit."

"If we don't have the ability to walk away from a negotiation then we may as well not bother to negotiate," he said.

An advert for Welsh independence?

Plaid Cymru, as you would expect, has been critical of both leadership contenders.

"There is a palpable sense of concern. Whoever wins, we now face a prime minister willing to deliver a disastrous no-deal Brexit," claimed Plaid's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.

"Now we face a Tory prime minister who seems intent on delivering a damaging Brexit policy in order to keep their party together. Westminster is simply not working for Wales.

"In fact, there have never been better adverts for Welsh independence than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt."

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