The EU “would be willing to renegotiate” a Brexit deal, says Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt, adding “they want to solve the problem”.
The EU has previously said the withdrawal agreement reached with the UK cannot be reopened.
Unlike the race frontrunner, Boris Johnson, Mr Hunt did not commit to leaving the EU on 31 October.
Meanwhile, fellow leadership contender Rory Stewart insisted “there is no new negotiation with Europe”.
He said the EU had made it clear they would not revisit the withdrawal agreement. Instead he proposed setting up a citizens’ jury to break the Brexit impasse.
Explaining his plan, he said a group of people representing the country’s demographics would be given three weeks to make recommendations which Parliament would then be able to approve or reject.
Dominic Raab – also running to replace Theresa May and become the next prime minister – said the Conservative Party “will be toast unless we are out by October”.
The six remaining candidates, apart from Boris Johnson, will appear in a TV debate on Channel 4 later.
Mr Hunt told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the EU were open to solutions surrounding the Northern Ireland backstop.
“They say if they were approached by a British prime minister who had ideas on how to solve the Northern Ireland backstop, they would be willing to renegotiate the package.”
He also said it would be wrong to commit to leaving the EU by 31 October, but added “if there was no prospect of a deal,” he would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal.
The foreign secretary said he had “profound issues” with Theresa May’s approach to getting a deal through Parliament.
“I did not think we should be trying to persuade Parliament to accept the backstop,” he said.
By saying he would leave the EU on 31 October, Mr Hunt said Boris Johnson was “effectively committing the country to no-deal or an election”.
Tory leadership race: EU will renegotiate Brexit package, says Hunt}