Former minister Sam Gyimah has become the 13th Conservative to enter the race to succeed Theresa May as party leader and prime minister.
Mr Gyimah told Sky News he was joining the crowded field to “broaden the race” – and pledged to hold a second referendum if he wins.
“I will be joining the contest to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister to broaden the race,” he told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“There is a wide range of candidates out there but there is a very narrow set of views on Brexit being discussed.
“And over the last few weeks I have watched on, discussing with colleagues in frustration that while there’s a broad sweep of opinion in the country on how we move forward at this critical time, that is not being reflected in the contest at the moment.”
— Sam Gyimah MP (@SamGyimah) June 2, 2019
Mr Gyimah was universities minister until last November, when he quit the government over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.
Since then, he has become a vocal supporter of another public vote.
“What most of the candidates are offering is to offer no-deal and a fudge on Theresa May’s deal which has been heavily defeated,” Mr Gyimah said.
“Parliament is deadlocked, we all know that, we want to move forward, and we want to be able to bring the country together.
“So that is why I think a final say on the Brexit deal is the way to achieve that and for the Conservative Party I think what we need to be doing is putting the country first.”
Mr Gyimah rejected suggestions his leadership bid was intended to position himself for a future cabinet job and said he would find it “very difficult” to serve under a leader pursuing a no-deal exit from the EU.
Mrs May will stand down as Tory leader on 7 June, formally beginning the race to succeed her.
The contest is expected to be concluded by the end of July, when Mrs May will leave Downing Street and hand over to her successor.
Although the race has not officially got under way, the jostling and jockeying has begun in earnest.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart are all standing.
Former cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey – as well as current housing minister Kit Malthouse, Brexit minister James Cleverly and former chief whip Mark Harper – complete the line-up.
Ballots among MPs to narrow down the field will begin on 10 June.
Ahead of that, a number of candidates have been setting out their stalls and making their case to become leader.
Mrs Leadsom – who also stood in 2016 – told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that she would take Britain out of the EU at the end of October as part of a “managed exit”.
The former Commons leader said this would take the form of a “three-step plan”: introduce legislation before MPs go away for the summer on “sensible measures”; ramp up preparations for all eventualities; and travel as a ministerial delegation to meet with EU member states.
Mr Javid said the focus of his approach to Brexit would be solving the thorny issue of the Irish border backstop.
He told the BBC he would make a “grand gesture” to Dublin “that we would cover all their costs – the upfront costs, the running costs – of a new digitised border”.
Mr Hancock has put forward a “Brexit Delivery Plan”, which includes a “more ambitious” future relationship with the EU, an “Irish Border Council” to tackle issues surrounding the border issue and a time limit to the backstop.
Mr Malthouse told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the party needed a “different type of leadership… that’s about more than shouting at the other side and bossing everybody about”.
He said he would work to bring the different parts of the Tory party together behind a compromise that could be taken back to Brussels.
The battle for endorsements from MPs also continues apace.
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan told Sky News she is backing Mr Gove for the job, saying he is “ready to lead the country and deliver Brexit”.
She said: “Michael is absolutely determined to deliver Brexit. He led the Vote Leave campaign and he wants to see that through.”
Justice Secretary David Gauke, meanwhile, is supporting Mr Stewart, as is former chancellor Ken Clarke.
Mr Gauke acknowledged his cabinet colleague was an “underdog”, but told Sky News he had some “real strengths”.
He also praised Mr Gove and Mr Hancock, raising the prospect of Mr Gauke’s support going to one of those two candidates if Mr Stewart is eliminated from the contest early on.
Mr Johnson has been boosted by the backing of Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, who declared in a tweet: “He’s got the oomph to take us out of the EU by October 31 and unleash the dynamism and talent of Britain.”