Jeremy Hunt says he would pursue a “different” Brexit deal without the Irish backstop

The Foreign Secretary and candidate for Conservative Party leadership, Jeremy Hunt, says that if he became Prime Minister, he would not pursue a No Deal Brexit if there was a “prospect of a better deal” which would not involve the Irish backstop protocol.

 Hunt said, “What [Prime Minister] Theresa May tried to do was a deal involving the backstop,” adding, “I was in Cabinet at the time and I supported her loyally, but I never thought that was the right approach. What I’m talking about is a deal that doesn’t involve the backstop as it’s constituted, so it would be different.”

Meanwhile, the other candidate, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said that changes to the current Withdrawal Agreement were not enough, adding, “We need a new Withdrawal Agreement – if we’re going to go out [of the EU] on the basis of a Withdrawal Agreement.” 

Johnson also said that the UK would not be able to “unilaterally use a GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Article] 24 solution” in order to avoid applying tariffs to trade with the EU in a No Deal Brexit, adding, “But you could agree with our EU friends and partners to go forward together on that basis.”

Elsewhere, Johnson wrote a letter to Hunt in which he says, “If I am elected leader, we will leave on 31 October with or without a deal,” and asks, “Will you join in this commitment to leave on 31 October come what may?” Hunt commented, “I think that October 31 come hell or high water is a fake deadline, because it’s more likely to trip us into a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit, and that would hand the keys to [Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn and then we’d have no Brexit at all.”

Digital hustings organised by Conservative Campaign Headquarters will take place today.

Separately, a YouGov survey of 1,680 people for The Times shows that 43 per cent of respondents support remaining in the EU as their first choice, compared to 28 per cent supporting a No Deal Brexit, 13 per cent supporting the current Withdrawal Agreement and 16 per cent supporting a softer Brexit with membership of the Customs Union and Single Market. 50 per cent of people surveyed said a softer Brexit was their second choice, and 32 per cent put the current Withdrawal Agreement as second choice.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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