Brexit campaigner and Conservative leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom warned against leaving the EU

Jake Cordell
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Andrea Leadom alongside Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart during TV debate
Andrea Leadsom alongside Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart during TV debate (Source: Getty)

Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom faced a series of tough questions this morning after a leaked audio recording showed the leading Brexit campaigner warning a vote to leave the EU would be a "disaster".

Leadsom, who rose to prominence in a series of televised debates before the vote, has built her pitch for the top job on the idea that the next prime minister should be somebody who campaigned for Brexit. However, a recording from a speech she delivered in 2013, obtained by the Daily Mail, has raised doubts about her commitment to leaving the EU.

In a speech to the Hansard Society, Leadsom said: "I need to nail my colours to the mast. I don't think the UK should leave the EU. I think it would be a disaster for our economy and lead to a decade of political and economic uncertainty."

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Leadsom told the Andrew Marr show a lot had changed since she made those comments. "It has been a journey. When I made those comments ... the current UK situation was untenable, the only way to remain was with fundamental reform.

"But when the prime minister came back with his renegotiation, with the certainty of a referendum behind it, it was very clear that the EU is just not reformable. The risks of remaining in the EU have massively magnified ... as did the determination of institutions to go further and faster."

However, the statement could still derail her campaign to challenge Theresa May to succeed David Cameron just as she was building momentum.

Although the home secretary is the top choice among Conservative MPs and Conservative voters, Leadsom has been building support since she announced she would stand last week. Reports last night suggested she had the backing of more than 50 MPs - putting her in second place to May with around 100 - with more than half of the parliamentary Conservative Party yet to declare.

In an interview with the Telegraph this morning she channelled her Thatcherite credentials and spoke about her belief in social justice. Leadsom also refused to stand aside to let Theresa May win the contest without the need for a ballot of party members and promised to publish her tax return before the end of the race.

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