Boris Johnson said he was not aiming for a no-deal Brexit but that it was responsible to prepare for such an outcome, as he launched his bid to become Prime Minister.
The former London mayor made his pitch to Tory MPs and party members this morning as he kicked off his campaign to replace Theresa May.
Johnson, seen as the frontrunner in the race, reiterated his view that the UK must leave the EU on 31 October, warning that “delay means defeat” for the Conservative party at the next general election.
In an attack on the Labour leader, Johnson said Jeremy Corbyn was a “threat to our way of life” with plans to hike taxes and attack wealth creation.
He vowed to unite the country, deliver Brexit, and win the next general election as Prime Minister.
Brexit has dominated the race so far, with a number of hopefuls, including Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Dominic Raab promising to take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal by 31 October.
Rival candidates and other MPs have hit out, criticising their willingness to leave without a deal.
Johnson, the bookies’ favourite in the contest, addressed the prospect of no-deal scenario at his campaign launch.
He said: “Let me be clear: I am not aiming for a no-deal outcome. I don’t think that we will end up with any such thing, but it is only responsible to prepare vigorously and seriously for no-deal.
“Indeed it is astonishing that anyone could suggest dispensing with that vital tool in the negotiation.”
He also apologised for any offence he had caused with his words in the past but that he would continue to speak as directly as he could.
Following the revelations that fellow candidate Michael Gove took cocaine in the late 1990s, Johnson refused to confirm whether he had taken the class A drug as a student and instead said it was time to focus on his vision for the future.