Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are set to take part in their only scheduled head-to-head encounter of the Tory leadership campaign.
The two contenders will appear on a live ITV debate tonight, which could help to decide the outcome of the contest.
Mr Johnson will hope to use the occasion to seal his position as the clear frontrunner, with polls giving him an overwhelming lead.
For Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, it potentially offers a final chance to turn around a contest in which he has been the underdog throughout.
There has been frustration in Mr Hunt’s camp at the reluctance of his rival to engage in direct debate.
© PA Wire/PA Images Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt operates a weaving loom during a visit to the School of Textiles and Design at the Heriot Watt University campus in Galashiels. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Although both men have taken part in numerous hustings, Mr Johnson has agreed to take part in only one previous TV debate, when there were still five contenders left in the race.
Mr Hunt has been particularly critical of Mr Johnson’s unwillingness to subject himself to more detailed scrutiny earlier in the contest.
Ballot papers started going out last week to the party’s estimated 180,000 members, and many will already have voted.
This means the potential for the debate, which kicks off at 8pm, to alter the course of the contest may be limited
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race for the keys to Number 10 (REUTERS)
At a hustings organised by The Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mr Johnson issued a fresh warning to Tory MPs seeking to block a no-deal Brexit.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve has tabled an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill – intended to keep government in the province running in the absence of the devolved institutions – requiring Parliament to come back to the issue in October.
The move is designed to try to ensure the next prime minister cannot push through a no-deal on October 31, the current EU deadline for agreeing on a deal, simply by suspending – or “proroguing” – Parliament.
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Jeremy Hunt will go head to head with Mr Johnson on live TV later tonight (EPA)
Speaker John Bercow is expected to announce later today whether he has selected the amendment for debate, giving MPs the chance to vote on it
Mr Johnson, who has said he will take Britain out of the EU by the end of October “do or die”, warned such tactics risked playing into the hands of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.
“If we don’t get Brexit over the line then we face a haemorrhage of support,” he said, according to the Telegraph.
“The risk they run is we will hand, by sheer incompetence, this government to a hard line Marxist.
“I make that point to Dominic Grieve and others who didn’t want to leave the EU. We’ve been very, very negative. We need to be much more robust and confident.”
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited image
Boris Johnson vows to get the UK ‘match fit’ for a no-deal Brexit
Mr Hunt said that he believed he would be able to get a new deal with Brussels – but if that proved impossible he would “batten down the hatches” and prepare for no-deal on October 31.
“I strongly believe if we approach this in the right way, there is a deal to be done,” he said, according to the Telegraph.
He went on: “In September I take it to the EU. At the end of September, I make a judgment: ‘Is there a deal to be done here?’
“If there isn’t one, we will batten down the hatches and be ready for October 31.”
Mr Johnson also promised to “fix” the pension cap that has resulted in 90 per cent tax rates for some high earners and has led to doctors refusing to work overtime for fear of receiving hefty tax bills.
© PA Wire/PA Images Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Downing Street, London. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
“This is something I have raised repeatedly, the £1.1 million pension cap, which is affecting doctors and other people.
“It’s obviously wrong, it’s causing a real problem, I have raised it repeatedly with the Treasury and they keep telling me they’ve addressed it but the headlines show it has not been addressed, and we will fix it.”