Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom has distanced herself from her UKIP supporters – insisting she has "no allegiances" to the anti-EU party and refusing to give Nigel Farage a job.
Launching her leadership bid in London on Monday, the pro-Leave energy minister said her key negotiating team would only come from within government and she wasn't concerned about UKIP members rushing to endorse her.
Leadsom is up against home secretary Theresa May, work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb, justice secretary Michael Gove and former minister Liam Fox in the race to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader and prime minister.
Tory MPs will start voting on Tuesday and a new leader will be elected by 9 September, after Cameron resigned following Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
Leadsom, 53, is the only contender without cabinet experience but she insisted she was ready to be PM. "I am better prepared for the coming negotiations than anyone else," she said. "I know I can do the job."
Her leadership launch came just an hour after Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader, at a venue just yards away. She was informed by a journalist that Farage was "now available".
"For what?" she replied. Asked whether he would ever be part of her team, she said: "I will only have my key negotiating team from the government and that's quite clear. There will be consultations but it will be a government cabinet minister and members of the government who lead the negotiations."
Leadsom has seen a surge in support from UKIP members since she announced her leadership bid last week. The Farage-backed group Leave.EU, which ran into controversy over its rhetoric on immigration during the campaign, has repeatedly tweeted its support.
Asked whether she was concerned about the backing from UKIP, Leadsom said: "I'm not really concerned about anything. I am who I am, I stand up for myself and I hope that I'm completely honest and if anyone wants to ask me a question they can. And I have no allegiances to UKIP."
The prominent Leave campaigner said the result of the referendum was "final" and would be respected. "The United Kingdom will leave the European Union," she said.
"Freedom of movement will end and the British parliament will decide how many people enter our country each year to live, work and contribute to our national life."
But in a wide-ranging pitch, Leadsom also painted herself as the only candidate who could reach out to all groups in Britain and unite Leave and Remain voters.
"The EU referendum didn’t cause divisions but it certainly did reveal them," she said. "Many people are shocked at the result but they really shouldn’t be.
"What I would like to say to them is: Please don't be afraid, we haven't lost our senses, we haven't stopped caring about each other, we haven't stopped loving our families and children, we haven't stopped loving our country either.
"We've just rediscovered our freedom."
Leadsom announced that she would guarantee the rights of EU migrants who had already come to Britain to live and work. "We must give them certainty – they will not be bargaining chips in our negotiations," she said to applause.
Her statement put her at odds with May, who has so far failed to confirm that EU nationals will be allowed to stay in Britain once the country has left.
She also vowed to fight against the excesses of the banking world, saying that "too few people" were ever brought to book for their part in the 2008 crash. She said it was "unacceptable" that people could become rich by winning boardroom pay rises that "bear no relation to company performance".
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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