Dominic Raab criticised “bluff and bluster”, tried to paint himself as “the conviction Brexiteer with a plan” and took aim at Boris Johnson, as he set out his stall to be the next Tory leader.
The former Brexit Secretary spelled out his desire to break from the EU by October 31 even without a deal if necessary when he formally launched his campaign to take over as prime minister.
The 45-year-old called for a “generational change in leadership” as he criticised leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, who has pledged a tax cut for workers earning more than £50,000.
Asked about the rival, Mr Rabb said he would rather cut the lowest paid’s taxes rather than what would be interpreted as “the caricature that you’re the party of privilege and you are only in it to help the wealthy”.
Mr Raab had earlier pledged to raise the employee’s National Insurance threshold to “take the lowest paid out of payroll taxes altogether”.
He vowed to return to Brussels to make a “best final offer” to replace the controversial backstop that has proved a sticking point in Parliament.
And he said he would restore discipline in Government and to bring forward a “Brexit budget” to cope with “this period of uncertainty”.
“We’re up against it and we won’t deliver Brexit with bluff and bluster,” he told the London event.
“I’m the conviction Brexiteer with the plan, the discipline and the focus to lead us out by the end of October.”
Mr Raab’s “bluff and bluster” comment was quickly interpreted in the Royal Festival Hall room where he delivered his keynote speech as an indirect comment about his toughest competition in the contest, Mr Johnson.
Esher and Walton MP Mr Raab pointed to the European elections that were disastrous for the Tories and said the “survival of our party” was at stake if it did not sever the UK from the EU.
Spelling out how he would deliver Brexit, Mr Raab said he would get a free trade deal rather than the “cage” of the Customs Union, and use technology and co-operation to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
He also said the UK could use the £39 billion budget for the Brexit deal to ease the transition for businesses.
A no deal scenario was not one he wanted, Mr Raab said, but it must remain on the table during negotiations.
And he went on to say he would fend off big businesses that “crush competition” and “rip off consumers” as he said he would “lead a revolution” to “smash monopolies”.
An extra £20 billion in funding through the health service’s long-term plan would also ensure the Tories “remain the party of the NHS”, he said.
Under questioning from journalists, Mr Raab said his rival Michael Gove should not step aside from the race after admitting using cocaine 20 years ago and ruled out making any law changes on abortion.
Seen as one of the most hardline Brexiteers among the Conservative candidates, Mr Raab was endorsed by former culture secretary Maria Miller at the event.
Mr Raab’s speech came as the race to replace Theresa May began in earnest.
Nominations to stand in the contest officially opened and Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock were all formally launching their campaigns.