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Hunt admits no-deal Brexit could be almost as damaging as 2008 financial crash – but will carry it out if necessary

‘The Bank of England’s predictions are that it wouldn’t be quite that bad, but it could be very serious’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 02 July 2019 20:34 BST
Jeremy Hunt admits no-deal could be almost as bad as 2008 crash

A no-deal Brexit could inflict almost as much damage as the 2008 financial crash, Jeremy Hunt has admitted – before vowing to crash out of Europe if necessary.

The admission is the starkest assessment yet of the impact of crashing out of the European Union, which both Tory leadership candidates say they are ready to do on 31 October.

“The Bank of England’s predictions are that it wouldn’t be quite that bad, but it could be very serious if we get this wrong,” the foreign secretary said.

The 2008 crash – or Great Recession – was the worst economic disaster since the Second World War, triggering a downturn that lasted more than a year.

Unemployment soared to 2.68 million people – the highest level since 1994 – and manufacturing output took more than a decade to recover.

Nevertheless, Mr Hunt said the UK had to make that “choice”, to allow withdrawal to go ahead without an agreement, if the EU refused to renegotiate Theresa May’s divorce deal.

“This is a country where we do what the people tell us, so we have to deliver Brexit,” he said. “We have to make it a success and part of the way we’ll make it a success, first of all, is preparing for a no-deal Brexit.”

The comments came in an interview on ITV’s Peston programme – hours after Philip Hammond, the chancellor, warned MPs the cost to the UK of a no-deal Brexit would reach £90bn.

Mr Hammond condemned the policy as “wrong” and urged MPs to join him in stopping the new prime minister from withdrawing from the EU without an agreement.

In the interview, Mr Hunt also admitted high-profile spending pledges – to tackle illiteracy in schools and boost the military – would have to be put on hold if the UK crashed out of Europe.

“The promises I made for the MoD and for the education budget, they would have to wait if we had a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

However, the rest of his huge spending programme, notably massive cuts to corporation tax and aiding big businesses, would go ahead in an emergency budget.

Mr Hunt has tried to outflank Boris Johnson by hardening his willingness to leave the EU without an agreement, to appeal to the Eurosceptic Tory membership.

The only significant difference in their positions now is that Mr Johnson has failed to rule out suspending parliament to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit

Defending his position, Mr Hunt promised action to ensure people did not become poorer, although economists will dispute if that is possible.

Arguing the UK could still prosper, he said: “When I go round the world as foreign secretary, people say one of the most amazing things about your country is that you are one of the most robust democracies in the world, one of the oldest democracies.”

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