Rishi Sunak has accused Liz Truss of “blaming Brexit” for the woes of British farmers as he tries to revive his Tory leadership campaign.
In an attempt to appeal to Tory members who will decide the next prime minister, many of whom voted for Brexit, the former chancellor also painted the foreign secretary as a politician who had failed to grasp the opportunities offered by the decision to leave the European Union.
Mr Sunak backed Brexit in 2016, while his opponent supported Remain, but he has struggled to take the lead on the issue during the contest.
Ms Truss’s role as foreign secretary, and as the minister in charge of new trade deals before that, has allowed her to cast herself as the cabinet minister trying to make the most of exiting the EU.
Over the weekend, she also promised to tackle the labour shortages in farming, which have been partly caused by restrictions on freedom of movement in the wake of Brexit.
Under her plans the current seasonal workers scheme, which allows thousands of overseas workers to come to the UK, would be extended.
But a Rishi campaign spokesman said Ms Truss “blames Brexit and fails to see the opportunities from it to help farmers and food production, has no plan to tackle inflation which has hit input costs hard, and neglects to mention trade deals because of her record in this area.”
He added: “The true Remainer colours are starting to show.”
Ballot papers are expected to land on the doorsteps of Tory party members across the UK this week.
A huge number are exacted to vote within days, despite the fact the competition will remain open for weeks and the new prime minister unveiled only on September 5.
Ms Truss picked up a series of key endorsements over the weekend, suggesting senior Tory MPs believe she is the strong favourite to win. She now has the backing of 10 cabinet members, twice the number of Mr Sunak.
The latest, Nadhim Zahawi, the chancellor, said he supported Ms Truss because she would “overturn the economic orthodoxy” to turbocharge growth, describing her as a “booster” while suggesting Mr Sunak was a “doomster”.
Ms Truss has also secured the backing of the former Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and ex-Tory leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat in recent days.
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will go head to head again tonight in the latest of a series of hustings organised by the Conservative party.