Britain could leave the EU without a deal ‘by accident’ unless European leaders take Chequers deal seriously, warns Jeremy Hunt
- Foreign Secretary warned EU against rejecting Mrs May’s proposals out of hand
- Michel Barnier warned last week that Brussels ‘cannot and will not’ accept the customs arrangements that lie at the heart of Theresa May’s Chequers plan
- Mr Hunt will hold Brexit talks in Paris today with the French foreign minister
Britain could leave the EU without a deal ‘by accident’ unless European leaders take the Chequers deal seriously, Jeremy Hunt warned
Britain could leave the EU without a deal ‘by accident’ unless European leaders take the Chequers deal seriously, Jeremy Hunt warned last night.
Speaking ahead of visits to France and Austria, the Foreign Secretary warned the EU against rejecting Mrs May’s controversial compromise proposals out of hand.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that Brussels ‘cannot and will not’ accept the customs arrangements that lie at the heart of Mrs May’s Chequers plan.
But, in an attempt to appeal directly to EU leaders, Mr Hunt suggested that rejecting the Chequers plan could lead to a no deal exit, which would damage both sides.
Mr Hunt will hold Brexit talks in Paris today with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, before travelling to Vienna tomorrow for talks with his counterpart Karin Kneissl.
Speaking ahead of the visit he said it was vital to maintain the valuable relationships the UK has with both countries.
‘The UK and its European friends are striving to build a new relationship that works for all of us,’ he said.
‘We have taken a principled and pragmatic approach through the White Paper, and with our EU partners, we have made great strides towards that deep and special partnership.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier (right) warned last week that Brussels ‘cannot and will not’ accept the customs arrangements that lie at the heart of Mrs May’s Chequers plan, left: Brexit secretary Dominic Raab
‘But it is vital this momentum continues, and I will be explaining to my counterparts in Paris and Vienna that it is time for the EU to engage with our proposals, or we potentially face the prospect of a no-deal by accident, which would be very challenging for both the UK and EU.’
Mr Hunt’s comments reflect fears within government that Europe will demand further concessions that Mrs May is unable to give.
Tory high command is already reeling from the backlash to the Chequers deal, which prompted the resignations this month of both Boris Johnson and David Davis.
Downing Street yesterday moved to calm anger about alleged ‘scaremongering’ over the possibility of a no deal Brexit, by dismissing claims that contingency plans had been drawn up to put the army on standby to deliver food and medicines when the UK leaves in March next year.
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The PM’s official spokesman defended the Government’s approach to planning for a no-deal Brexit, insisting it was ‘taking sensible precautions’ by publishing a series of technical notes this summer setting out contingency plans.
The spokesman said there were ‘no plans’ to involve the army.
He added: ‘We remain confident of securing a good deal. That’s clearly in the interests of both the UK and the EU.
‘What these notices are about is making sensible preparations so that if we do end up in the unlikely scenario of no-deal we can implement that in an orderly way.’
Meanwhile, there was fresh evidence of the impact the Chequers deal has had on Tory morale.
A monthly survey of Tory activists by the grassroots Conservative Home website found that the proportion who believe the party is on course to win a majority at the next election has fallen by almost half since the Chequers deal was unveiled.
Last month, some 45 per cent of activists suggested the Tories were on course to secure a majority. But the latest poll showed the figure had slumped to just 26.5 per cent.
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