Boris Johnson, the favourite to become the UK's next prime minister, reiterated his Brexit threat on Monday by saying he was prepared to take the country out of the EU in October with or without a deal.
“My pledge is to come out of the EU at Halloween on 31 October,” Johnson told the BBC.
“And the way to get our friends and partners to understand how serious we are is finally, I’m afraid, to abandon the defeatism and negativity that has enfolded us in a great cloud for so long and to prepare confidently and seriously for... a no-deal outcome.”
Johnson said a hard crash out of the bloc, which has rattled the markets and sent Sterling into a slump, was not what he wanted but that it was necessary to put the option on the table so the UK could guarantee a deal with the EU.
Asked on resolving the impasse on the Irish border, a key issue which has prevented a deal going through in the past, Johnson said amending or abandoning the backstop — a guarantee to ensure no return of extensive border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland — could be a step forward.
The former London mayor said if he was elected he would start new talks as soon as he reached Downing Street and would ask Brussels for an "implementation period", which would involve the EU granting a period of time where the status quo was kept in order for a deal to be finalised after Brexit.
Johnson is still leading the race to replace Theresa May but he has been dented by reports of a heated-late night argument with his girlfriend, which led to police being called to their home.
Johnson declined to comment on the incident in the BBC interview. "I do not talk about stuff involving my family, my loved ones," he said.
His rival in the leadership contest, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has called Johnson a "coward" for avoiding public debates with him.