Tory tensions over Brexit continued to rip through the race to be next prime minister as front-runner Boris Johnson insisted “no one sensible” would exclusively aim for a no-deal withdrawal.
The comments came after the former foreign secretary drew fire from senior Tories after he was accused of pushing to quit the EU without an agreement in October.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the ex-foreign secretary said: “No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome.
“No one responsible would take no-deal off the table.”
Mr Johnson insisted last week that the UK would quit the bloc on October 31 “deal or no deal”.
As the battle for Downing Street heated up, Environment Secretary Michael Gove insisted he has “evolved” as a politician since previously stating he was “incapable” of being prime minister.
He told BBC Radio 4 podcast, Political Thinking with Nick Robinson: “I’ve changed my mind.
“In those three years I have been through a variety of experiences.
“I think that I’ve evolved as a politician.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond has repeatedly refused to rule out backing a no confidence vote in Theresa May’s successor if they went for a no-deal Brexit in October.
He told the BBC: “A prime minister who ignores Parliament cannot expect to survive very long.”
Other leadership contenders Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey have said they would be prepared to leave with no deal on October 31 if necessary.
Mr Gove said he would set out his stance on no deal in the coming days, but that he agreed with Mrs May on the need for compromise in politics.
Writing in the Times, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for fellow contenders to rule out a snap national poll in a bid to try and end parliamentary deadlock on Brexit.
He said: “A general election before Brexit would be madness.
“That means we have to deliver Brexit through this Parliament, whether we like it or not.”
Mr Gove insisted he could be trusted when asked about campaigning against his previous political ally David Cameron in the referendum, and the way he suddenly abandoned Mr Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest.
And Mr Johnson used the poor Tory showing in the European Parliament election to try and position himself as the candidate best placed to battle the Brexit Party.
The new Tory leader looks set to take over as prime minister at the end of July after Mrs May finally laid out a timetable for her exit from Downing Street.
Nominations close in the week of June 10, with MPs involved in a series of votes to whittle down the crowded field to a final two contenders.
The 160,000 Tory party members will then decide who wins the run-off.