Boris Johnson has claimed only he can see off both Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn as he urged Tory MPs and party members to make him their next leader and British prime minister.
The leadership campaign front-runner said he would refuse to pay the promised £39 billion (€43bn) to the European Union unless better Brexit terms are on offer and would step up preparations to counter no-deal “disruption”.
Meanwhile leadership rival Michael Gove set out plans to replace VAT after Brexit with a “lower, simpler” sales tax.
And Sajid Javid’s campaign received a boost with an endorsement from Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.
In his first major interview of the campaign, Mr Johnson told the Sunday Times he could defeat the twin threat posed by the leaders of the Brexit Party and Labour – comparing them to the sea monsters from Greek mythology which troubled Odysseus.
“I truly believe only I can steer the country between the Scylla and Charybdis of Corbyn and Farage and on to calmer water.
“This can only be achieved by delivering Brexit as promised on October 31 and delivering a One Nation Tory agenda.”
On Brexit, he said he would scrap the backstop – something the EU has so far refused to do and would settle the Irish border issue only when Brussels is ready to agree to a future relationship.
The £39 billion settlement would only be paid when there is “greater clarity” about the way forward, he said.