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Analysis

Hunt is right: Tories ‘face extinction’ by pursuing No Deal

by Luke Lythgoe | 28.05.2019

Jeremy Hunt has warned Tories that trying to deliver a no-deal Brexit would be “political suicide”. The foreign secretary predicts his party would be “annihilated” by the Brexit Party and Lib Dems in a general election and “face extinction”.

What he doesn’t say in his Telegraph column is that the blowback from actually unleashing no-deal Brexit chaos would be even worse.

Hunt’s comments should be seen in the context of his cynical flip-flopping for the Tory leadership. After all, this once Remain-voting foreign secretary seemed all for “no deal” until recently.

Nevertheless, those contenders prepared to take the UK out of the EU without a deal – Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey – should heed Hunt’s warning. Trying and failing could mean they are prime minister for an extremely short period of time.

Hunt’s scenario involves Parliament blocking “no deal” and forcing a general election. This would probably send the Tories into the wilderness for many years. But a new prime minister who somehow managed to outmanoeuvre MPs and actually crash out of the EU could end the Tories for good.

No-deal happens. Then what?

No-deal Brexit means we will crash out of the EU’s legal framework and confidence in our economy will get clobbered. There are dire knock-on effects.

For our trade, that means new tariffs, new customs checks and chaos at the ports. Parts of the country’s road networks will grind to a halt. Perishable goods – fruit, fish, and som pharmaceuticals – will spoil in miles-long queues. Up to 30 trade deals we have with other non-EU countries will also fall apart.

For consumers, tariffs on EU produce and a crash in the value of the pound will push prices up in shops. There could also be shortages of some foods.

For our industry, just-in-time supply chains criss-crossing the EU will gum up and factories will be short of parts. Many will likely opt for temporary closures. Ultimately, international suppliers and manufacturers will move investment and jobs elsewhere.

For the NHS, medicines and other supplies will be more expensive and in short supply. Abruptly leaving Euratom, Europe’s nuclear regulator, could mean other countries cannot supply us with radioactive isotopes for treating cancer.

For our police, access to criminal data-sharing and speedy extradition via the European Arrest Warrant will no longer apply to the UK.

For Ireland, a hard border will be implemented. That will draw an arbitrary line, with new tariffs and checks, across an all-island economy where goods, workers and services now move from north to south on a daily basis. Political anger could stoke sectarian tensions and lead to political violence.

All of this is just the immediate fallout. In the medium term, we could enter a recession, Scotland looks likely to bid for independence and our voice in the world will be diminished. The blame for all of this will fall at the Conservative party’s door.

So, Hunt’s point about “no deal” being political suicide for his party is bang on. Yet his solution of “re-entering negotiations” with the EU and finding “a different deal” with “our DUP friends” smacks desperately of deja vu.

How about an actual solution to this Brexit mess? Like putting it back to the people to see if they still want it. If they don’t, cancelling Brexit is the best way to end the existential threat to the Tories and, more importantly, our country. Then we can start the post-Brexit healing process.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “Hunt is right: Tories ‘face extinction’ by pursuing No Deal”

  • Just once I’d like to see a BBC documentary about what is likely to happen if we crash out of the EU. All the things that you list and how they would affect people. It is hard to believe how reluctant many people are to see the risks they run. They could even have one of our ex-pat Brexiteers fly over from France to to tell us all what balderdash these worries are for ‘balance’. Type 1 diabetics like a certain SKY presenter may not be quite so favourably predisposed to soft questions of nationalists and re-enforcing morning chitchat with plump brexiteers opining on the paper, if they could see their future without decent drugs and a medicines agency to certify them. I suppose Darwin was right, this is an evolutionary event for Britons.

  • No one appears to realize that if Scotland leaves the union with England and opts for return to the EU, there will be a border at least as hard as between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Just one more example of the lazy thinking that surrounds Brexit. If the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland can unite as a kind of Celtic Union and enter the EU, that there is definitely potential for a viable economy based on resources and commercial assets and skills. Never mind issues of education, taken over from English institutions that lost their influx of (and income from) foreign students and EU funding. If it wasn’t such dicey messing about with our future welfare it could be said to be an interesting experiment.

  • Quite an interesting idea, actually. The economies of Ireland, Wales and Scotland overtaking that of England.

  • @Peter Van der Mark

    the countries of a putative “Celtic Union” just barely come close to 1/3 of the population of England, so forget about economic parity (especially with potential economic & political basket cases such as northern ireland and wales)

    that said, with lots of investment and pro-business policies, you could see a per capita parity (and even overtaking) in wealth. all the more so, considering the economic dislocation and political fall-out that a breaking-up of the United Kingdom would have

  • I actually think Jeremy Hunt is completely wrong.

    If the new prime minister truly puts no deal as the default position and if no deal is negotiated or accepted by parliament then it will be parliament that would be responsible for stopping this country leaving the EU. In that scenario a general election would have to be called and I am utterly convinced a leave majority parliament would be voted in. This would very likely mean another conservative government minus the likes of Dom Grieve etc. Labour would probably be represented by a much smaller contingent mainly of true leavers in the north/midlands and remainers in the south and there would probably a lot more lib dems in strongly remain constituencies. It is therefore quite possible the Brexit party would pick up seats in Labour heartlands and from Tory remainers, thus leading to a parliament that would have no problem with leaving on WTO rules.