Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson hold eleventh-hour talks

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Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak – two of the likely contenders in the race to become the United Kingdom’s next prime minister – have held face-to-face talks, according to media reports.

The meeting took place late on Saturday, the BBC and the Sunday Times reported, shortly after Johnson returned to London from a Caribbean holiday, reportedly aiming to launch an attempt to win a second term as prime minister, only weeks after he was forced to step down.

Neither of the men has yet declared if he will run to replace outgoing leader Liz Truss, who announced on Thursday she would stand down – just 44 days into her tenure. The potential candidates have until 13:00 GMT on Monday to secure the backing of at least 100 Conservative Party legislators and enter the leadership race.

Few details have emerged about what The Sun dubbed a “secret summit” and the Sunday Times said was still ongoing at close to 10pm (21:00 GMT). The Sunday Telegraph reported they were set to discuss “agreeing to a joint ticket” to avoid a Conservative Party “civil war”.

Susie Boniface, author and columnist at the Daily Mirror, said a joint leadership bid by Sunak and Johnson was unlikely. “We need to remember these two men actually detest each other. They do not get on, they don’t see eye to eye,” she told Al Jazeera.

It is thought to be their first in-person discussions in months, following a spectacular falling-out after Sunak’s resignation as finance minister in July helped trigger the government mutiny that ultimately prompted Johnson’s ousting.

Sunak is currently ahead in the race, with the public backing of 128 legislators, compared with Johnson’s 53. Former defence minister Penny Mordaunt, who is the only Conservative Party member to formally declare her run, has about 23 nominations.

The leadership contest has been accelerated to take only a week. Under the rules, only three candidates will be able to reach the first ballot on Monday afternoon, with the final two put to a vote on Friday, which is limited to about 170,000 signed-up members of the Conservative Party.