Brexit: Conservative Party will commit 'political suicide' if it pursues no deal, Jeremy Hunt says

Foreign secretary says Tories face 'extinction' if they call election before delivering referendum result

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 28 May 2019 08:44 BST
Jeremy Hunt confirms his bid for Conservative leadership

Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has warned the party will be committing “political suicide” if it pursues a no-deal Brexit in the wake of a calamitous showing at the European elections.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the foreign secretary also claimed the Conservatives would be “annihilated” and “face extinction” if a general election were called before Brexit is delivered.

Mr Hunt, who voted remain, trails Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove in the leadership race betting odds, but has so far received public backing from 28 MPs – more than any of his rivals.

“Any candidate for prime minister whose strategy leads to a general election is offering a prospectus for disaster,” Mr Hunt wrote.

He claimed the “most likely outcome” of an election would be a “damaged Labour sneaking through the middle” in coalition with the SNP, leaving a “Marxist in Downing street” in what would amount to a “threat to the Union”.

Mr Hunt appealed to colleagues to unite to “fight off the forces of Farage” and “deliver Brexit”, which he pledged to do if leader by re-entering negotiations with the European Union (EU).

On BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on Tuesday morning, Mr Hunt said he would involve Scotland and Wales, as well as the DUP and the European Research Group in EU talks, but not Labour, who he claimed had not acted in "good faith" over its approach to Brexit.

In a rebuke to Tory rivals including Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey, who have vowed to leave the EU on 31 October, Mr Hunt said: “Any prime minister who promised to leave the EU by a specific date - without the time to renegotiate and pass a new deal - would, in effect, be committing to a general election the moment parliament tried to stop it.

“And trying to deliver no deal through a general election is not a solution, it is political suicide. That would delight Nigel Farage and probably put Jeremy Corbyn in No10 by Christmas.”

Ms McVey, who has promised to deliver a no-deal Brexit, was quick to respond on Monday evening to Mr Hunt, claiming political suicide “actually lies in not having a clean break from the EU”.

Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, said Mr Hunt’s article showed a lack of commitment to delivering Brexit.

“This is exactly why we need a leader who believes in #Brexit and fought for it,” he tweeted.

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