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Analysis

Hunt’s Brexit stance is as hopeless and cynical as Johnson’s

by Luke Lythgoe | 26.06.2019

The Brexit stance taken by Jeremy Hunt in the race to be prime minister is as hopeless and cynical as his rival Boris Johnson’s. Hopeless because Hunt too will lead us to a no-deal cliff edge unless he does a u-turn or MPs stop him. Cynical because the foreign secretary would rather pin the blame for the Brexit mess on the EU rather than the hapless government in which he serves.

Anyone willing Hunt to become prime minister because “at least he’s not Boris” should look harder at his plan. Putting aside Johnson’s bombastic “do or die” approach to the October 31 deadline, there’s not much between the two Tory leadership contenders.

Like Johnson, the central premise of Hunt’s plan is to renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. That means a deal that “doesn’t involve the backstop as it’s constituted at the moment,” Hunt told the BBC. And like Johnson he envisages a “technology-led solution” to keep the Irish border open.

The EU has repeatedly ruled out reopening the withdrawal agreement. What’s more, Brexiters have been talking about “technology solutions” for three years and we’re still no closer to a magical fix. Hunt had no new details to offer in his interview yesterday.

Unlike Johnson, Hunt insists he won’t crash out on October 31 if he still thinks there’s “a prospect of a better deal”. But extending Article 50 is not in Hunt’s gift – the EU will decide. The Irish prime minister has warned of “enormous hostility” among EU leaders to another extension unless it’s for a general election or new referendum – i.e. something that could genuinely break the political deadlock. More pie-in-the-sky negotiating won’t cut it.

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Hunt is dead against a general election and says he would rather go for a no-deal Brexit “with a heavy heart” than abandon Brexit altogether. This position, like Johnson’s, will take the country to the precipice.

Hunt is already laying the groundwork to shift the blame for no deal onto the EU. Yesterday he doubled down on his offensive comparison of the EU to the Soviet Union, describing it as an “uncomfortable truth”. Is that the same Soviet Union that, under the Brezhnev Doctrine, rolled tanks into Eastern European countries to crush regimes diverging even slightly from the Soviet line?

Hunt’s further explanation that it is “totally inappropriate for an organisation that was set up to defend freedom to make it impossible for a member to leave” is brazen blame-game tactics. Far from making it “impossible” for a state to leave the EU, the Article 50 process is designed to allow just that. This is not the Warsaw Pact.

The sad truth is that May got a miserable deal largely because we need the EU more than it needs us. That’s negotiating 101. Hunt, who prides himself on his business skills, should understand that. 
With Johnson’s campaign having troubles, there’s now a chance Hunt might reach 10 Downing Street. But neither man can pull the country out of the Brexit quagmire. The only way to do that is to stay in the EU. We’ll then be able to fix the country’s real problems – from the NHS to knife crime and everything in between – because we’ll have more money and our politicians won’t be obsessing about Brexit. So get out there and March for Change on July 20.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Hunt’s Brexit stance is as hopeless and cynical as Johnson’s”

  • Johnson’s bombastic “do or die” approach to the October 31 deadline is fine by me. Since he clearly can’t do it, we shall soon be reading his political obituaries.

    -A.

  • What is worrying really, is the amount of English voters that accepts this hopeless stunting with the nation’s future as good political and diplomatic brinkmanship. It’s a plain and ridiculous attempt at bullying. The EU reaction, ignoring of the latest UK negotiation fart and irritation at the time and money it takes with very little to show for it, are getting increasingly obvious. Not a good position for a badly weakened UK to be in.

  • Ihave no faith in Boris )n0t godounov and little Isaac Hunt after thway in he ruined theNHS but I believe under the wraps of Tory Brexiteering Hunt is probably still something of a Europhile. Let us press him to ask the people their opinion now.