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Analysis

Hunt calls on Boris to be ‘honest’. But is he honest?

by Luke Lythgoe | 24.06.2019

Jeremy Hunt has today urged “honesty” and “scrutiny” in the contest to be the next prime minister. Given Boris Johnson’s recent troubles, the foreign secretary may now have a chance of winning. But if he is really against both crashing out and cancelling Brexit, he doesn’t have a viable Brexit plan of his own. Will he be honest about that?

“A prime minister needs to arrive in Number 10 with a mandate, they need to have said what they’re going to do and have the authority to do it,” Hunt told the BBC’s Today Programme. He accused Johnson of trying to avoid scrutiny and “slink through the back door”.

But what is Hunt planning to do? What will his “mandate” be? His stated plan is to renegotiate Theresa May’s deal which MPs have rejected three times. He says he “won’t give up on” getting a better deal, and that he’s “honest about the fact it’s going to be difficult, but is going to have a go”.

Fine. Except EU leaders, including the Dutch prime minister last week, have repeatedly ruled out any renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement,. Meanwhile, the Irish taoiseach says there’s no deal without the infamous “backstop” to keep the Irish border open.

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Hunt insists that if EU leaders were “approached by a British prime minister who had ideas on how to solve the Northern Ireland backstop, they would be willing to renegotiate the package”. But what’s his plan? If it’s anything like the proposals in a report on “alternative arrangements” published by Tory MPs today, it has already been tested to death and found wanting.

Ireland’s Leo Varadkar says there’s “enormous hostility” to delaying Brexit a third time unless it’s for a general election or new referendum. If Hunt can’t get a deal and rejects those, the alternative will be to crash out.

What exactly does the foreign secretary want? Having voted Remain in 2016, he has since said he’d back leaving in a new referendum. Last year he warned a “messy” no-deal Brexit would be a “mistake we would regret for generations” before quickly u-turning to claim the UK would “survive and prosper” after no deal. Now he’s against it again except as a “last resort”.

Hunt’s Brexit approach may seem less extreme than Johnson’s  because he is not promising to leave on October 31 come what may. But what happens when the EU says he can’t renegotiate the deal? Will he opt to crash out with a “heavy heart” or will he put Brexit back to the people?
If it is the former, Hunt is not the person to lead us out of this mess. The only way to stop the chaos is to stop Brexit. So join us at the March for Change on July 20 to demand our new prime minister – whomever he is – does just that.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Hunt calls on Boris to be ‘honest’. But is he honest?”

  • Makes one wonder whether these PM candidates actually read English, seeing how the EU did their very best to put their bit together in that language. Also, anyone voting for Hunt, who is going to take the wrecked treaty (in the UK, that is!) back to Brussels is voting for a very dead duck. Johnson will simply not be taken seriously in Brussels after a few decades of openly lying, so what is the execution of democratic due process when putting either of these two incompetents on the job of British PM? The “will of the British people” has somehow got lost along the line!