U.K. Tories Prepare to Pick Final Two Candidates to Succeed May(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Conservative members of Parliament will choose the final shortlist of two candidates to succeed Theresa May as prime minister Thursday, a day after the favorite, Boris Johnson, stretched his lead to 89 votes.International Development Secretary Rory Stewart was knocked out in the third ballot Wednesday. With Johnson’s place in the final pair looking assured, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid are battling to join him on the ballot paper that’s put to 160,000 grassroots Tory Party members. Johnson won 143 votes out of 313 -- the same as Hunt, Gove and Javid combined.“Everybody realizes and they accept absolutely that Boris Johnson will be one of the final two,’’ Javid told BBC TV late Wednesday. “Now it’s about who will be that second person.”Stewart’s elimination means the U.K.’s next prime minister will use the threat of a no-deal Brexit to try to secure changes from the European Union to the deal painstakingly negotiated by May and thrice rejected by the House of Commons. Stewart had been the only remaining candidate to rule out leaving the EU without a deal.In other developments:Johnson’s campaign has war-gamed holding a general election, possibly in the fallChancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond on Thursday will urge the leadership contenders to consider a general election or second referendum rather than an economically damaging no-deal BrexitA panel to devise alternative arrangements for the so-called Irish backstop will meet for the first time ThursdayOpposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyntold his shadow cabinet Wednesday that any Brexit deal should be put to a public vote, with options for both sides of the argumentTory MPs are due to vote twice Thursday, each time eliminating one candidate. Results are expected shortly after 1 p.m. and at about 6 p.m., when the final two contenders will be known.The four remaining candidates have said they’d seek to drop or change the Irish backstop in May’s deal -- fallback provisions to keep open the border with Ireland that could keep the U.K. tied indefinitely to EU rules.No-DealJavid has said he’ll take the U.K. out of the bloc Oct. 31 with or without a deal. Johnson has said a departure by then is “eminently feasible” but has refused to guarantee it. And Hunt and Gove both say they’ll countenance a delay if a deal is within sight.Hunt on Wednesday told LBC radio it’ll be “very challenging” to get the changes he wants by the end of October, but that he expects European leaders to take his proposals “very seriously." He plans to include members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party in his negotiating team, alongside Scottish and Welsh Tories and Brexit purists in the party.That would mean “no proposal we make would be a proposal that couldn’t get through the British Parliament,” Hunt said.’Dark Arts’Gove told LBC that as prime minister, he’d rule out a pact with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and that he wouldn’t seek a general election before 2022.“People do not want an early election,’’ Gove said. “They want us to get on with delivering Brexit, negotiating the new trade deal with Europe once we’re out.”Stewart had been the surprise package of the contest after an esoteric campaign that included an official launch in a circus tent. He told ITV late Wednesday that he didn’t think there had been "dirty tricks" by Johnson after suggesting earlier that "dark arts" might be at play with votes being lent to other candidates to ensure he missed out. The Telegraph on Friday reported that Johnson supporters are planning to lend votes to Javid to ensure Gove is knocked out.Stewart said he’ll reflect overnight on which rival to support. He lamented that the Tory Party has strayed from the center ground. “We’re enormously missing a trick as a party,” he said. "There are quite literally millions of people who feel like they don’t have a [political] home in this country."To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.