No-deal Brexit could happen 'by accident', Jeremy Hunt says

'My real concern is that it would change British public attitudes to Europe for a generation,' says foreign secretary

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 23 July 2018 20:12
No-deal Brexit could happen 'by accident', Jeremy Hunt says

Newly appointed foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned of the risk of a no-deal Brexit “by accident” if negotiators in Brussels waited too long for Britain to “blink”.

Speaking in Berlin – his first overseas visit in the new role – Mr Hunt said crashing out of the bloc would also lead to a “fissure” in UK-EU relations for a generation.

“Without a real change in approach from the EU negotiators, we do now face a real risk of no deal by accident,” the foreign secretary said at a news conference alongside his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

His visit marks the first in a frenetic round of diplomatic visits by UK cabinet ministers to European capitals as Theresa May seeks to build support for her Chequers blueprint for Brexit.

It also comes as it emerged the head of Amazon in the UK said leaving the union without a deal could prompt “civil unrest” within days at a meeting attended by the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab.

Referring to a no-deal Brexit, Mr Hunt said: “That would be incredibly challenging economically. Britain would find that challenging but in the end we would find a way not just to survive but to thrive economically.

”But my real concern is that it would change British public attitudes to Europe for a generation.

“It would lead to a fissure in relations which would be highly damaging for that great partnership that we have had for so many years, which has been so important in sustaining the international order.”

He continued: “I think that many people in the EU are thinking that they just have to wait long enough and Britain will blink.”

On Friday, the prime minister is expected to hold talks with Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz and other EU leaders at the Salzburg arts festival.

Also this week, Ms May’s de facto deputy David Lidington will travel to Paris while Brexit secretary Dominic Raab will be in Brussels for talks on Thursday.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Berlin, the foreign secretary added: “Germany is one of Britain’s most important allies in every field, from trade to European security to counterterrorism.

“Our two countries work side-by-side to defend the rules-based international system on which our safety and prosperity depend.

“We are striving together to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, uphold the Paris climate change treaty, strengthen Nato, combat terrorism, improve cyber security and stabilise the countries of the Western Balkans.”

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