A no-deal Brexit would be a “mistake we would regret for generations”, Jeremy Hunt has said.
The Foreign Secretary’s comments came in an interview with ITV News after a meeting with the Dutch foreign minister as part of a three-day tour of Northern Europe.
Asked whether he was presenting the Government’s Brexit plan as “take it or leave it”, he said: “No, but it is a framework on which I believe the ultimate deal will be based and I’ve been to several countries and met seven foreign ministers and am meeting more in the weeks ahead and I’m getting a strong sense that not just in Holland but in many of the places I’ve visited that they do want to engage seriously to try and find a way through to try and get a pragmatic outcome.”
Discussing the risk of no proper negotiated deal he said: “It would be a mistake we would regret for generations, if we had a messy, ugly divorce and would inevitably change British attitudes towards Europe.”
Important not to misrepresent my words: Britain WOULD survive and prosper without a deal…but it would be a big mistake for Europe because of inevitable impact on long term partnership with UK. We will only sign up to deal that respects referendum result
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 17, 2018
He also revealed that the Government would consider EU proposals that demanded accepting European environmental and social legislation, in order to facilitate a free trade agreement.
As his comments hit the headlines, Mr Hunt later tweeted that Britain would survive and prosper without a deal, but it would be a “big mistake for Europe”, adding: “We will only sign up to deal that respects referendum result”.
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Asked to compare himself with Boris Johnson’s approach as foreign secretary he said: “I think the role of the foreign secretary is to go around foreign capitals and point out the implications of not getting a deal are profound in terms of our friendship and corporation with foreign countries across a whole range of areas.”
Mr Hunt also responded to reports that Brussels Brexit negotiators were concerned they were being bugged by British spies.
The Daily Telegraph reported that officials had raised security concerns after the UK obtained sensitive documents “within hours” of them being discussed.
Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief Brexit negotiator, reportedly told officials that “it could not be excluded” that British intelligence had penetrated their meetings.
Asked about the rumours, Mr Hunt said: “I’m Foreign Secretary and foreign secretaries never comment on such matters but you are a journalist and you don’t have any trouble finding out what is going on in those meeting just like you have no problems in finding out what’s happening in our London meetings.”