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Rory Stewart has said it would be “heartbreaking” to leave his job as international development secretary were Boris Johnson to become the next prime minister.

Stewart, an anti no-deal candidate who was knocked out of the Tory leadership contest after last week after a television debate, has vowed not to serve in a Johnson cabinet.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s the proudest I’ve been. It’s the greatest job I’ve ever had in government. It’s an amazing department that makes a huge difference around the world. And it’s greatly admired.

“I’ve worked with the Department for International Development in Iraq, Afghanistan going back over 15, 16 years. It really was the dream of my career, but unfortunately we will have to see who the next prime minister is.”

The former prisons minister, who had worked previously at DfID before he took over from Penny Mordaunt last month, said Johnson’s stance on Europe would make it impossible to stay. Stewart, who has backed Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative leadership contest, warned that a no-deal Brexit would make it harder for Britain to attain UN targets to lift people out of poverty.

“Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to remain in this job if Boris was prime minister,” said Stewart. “I don’t think we he would want me, for a start, but it’s also true that I’m afraid on the very fundamental issue of the day, which is Brexit.

“I have said repeatedly that he is trying to deliver something that he can’t deliver and he’s going to disappoint people deeply. I wouldn’t be able to be a member of a cabinet arguing for a policy that I think is misleading.”

Stewart was at Torriano primary school in Camden, north London, to face questions from schoolchildren and to talk about the UK’s progress towards the UN’s global goals. Read more

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