Working towards a no-deal Brexit would be “political suicide” for the Conservatives, Jeremy Hunt has warned as he launched his campaign in the party’s leadership race.
The foreign secretary is one of 10 candidates to put themselves forward to become the next Prime Minister after Theresa May announced she would resign on 7 June.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt said shifting stance to a no-deal would result in a general election, which he believes would result in a Labour win and Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.
He said the “only solution” is to re-open negotiations over the withdrawal agreement with the EU to remove the Irish backstop, which has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks so far. The EU has consistently refused to change the withdrawal agreement but Mr Hunt believes a new negotiating team, made up of representatives from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the pro-Brexit European Research Group, would “give the EU the confidence that any offer can be delivered through Parliament”.
Jeremy Hunt said: “If you go to [the EU] with the right tone, with a deal that recognises their legitimate concerns over the border of Ireland, if you go with a negotiating team that gives them the confidence you can deliver with a majority in the House of Commons, you have the prospect – I don’t say the guarantee – but you have the prospect of getting a deal.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said the Conservatives would face ‘annihilation’ and ‘extinction’ if the party backed a no-deal.