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Jeremy Hunt says next PM must be 'trustworthy' in fresh blast at Boris Johnson

Jeremy Hunt says next PM must be 'trustworthy' in fresh blast at Boris Johnson
4 min read

Jeremy Hunt has taken a fresh swipe at Conservative rival Boris Johnson, as he said the next Prime Minister will need to be "trustworthy" to get Brexit done.

The Tory leadership contender said striking an agreement in Brussels would be "about the personality of the Prime Minister".

But he dismissed the 31 October Brexit date described as "do or die" by Mr Johnson as a "fake deadline".

Speaking to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Hunt said Conservative members needed to make a judgement on who was "the person we trust as PM to go to Brussels and bring back that deal".

"It's about the personality of our PM," he said. "If you choose someone where there's no trust, there's going to be no negotiation, no deal. And quite possibly a general election which could mean we have no Brexit either."

Mr Hunt added: "If you choose someone that the other side will talk to who's going to be very tough, there will at least be a negotiation and I believe this deal can be done."

But the Foreign Secretary insisted he was not trying to paint his Conservative rival as untrustworthy, saying he would "never make those comments about a fellow candidate".

He added: "I would serve Boris Johnson to the very best of my ability and make his prime ministership a success and I hope he'd do the same for me."

His comments come after Mr Johnson declared that he would take Britain out of the European Union "do or die" by 31 October - and challenged his rival to do the same.

However, Mr Hunt warned that focusing on achieving Brexit on that date with or without a deal risked ushering in a Labour government, as he said he would not walk away from talks with the EU if there was still "a prospect of a better deal".

The Foreign Secretary said: "I think that 31 October come hell or high water is a fake deadline, because it's more likely to trip us into a general election before we've delivered Brexit, and that would hand the keys to Jeremy Corbyn and then we'd have no Brexit at all."

The Tory contender made clear that he would only opt for a no-deal Brexit "with a heavy heart" because of the "destruction" it could cause to businesses.

And he added: "I think it'd be very bad for the union, with Scotland where I was at the weekend… I would do it though. But as a last resort."


Mr Johnson's Brexit plans were also slapped down by Cabinet minister Liam Fox, who dismissed a call to use World Trade Organisation rules to try and ensure tariff-free trade continues even after a no-deal exit from the EU.

The Conservative leadership hopeful has proposed trying to rely on a section of WTO rules known as GATT 24 to ensure free imports and exports could carry in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson said on Tuesday that he would try to negotiate a "standstill" period with the EU to thrash out a low-tariff agreement under the rules.

Br Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, said those talking up the GATT plan were relying on "supposition" as he pointed out that such a proposal would still need agreement from Brussels.

"A 'no deal' scenario, by definition, suggests that there would be no mutual agreement between the UK and the EU on any temporary or permanent arrangement," he wrote in an article on LinkedIn.

"In those circumstances Article 24 cannot be used. The European Union has made it clear on a number of occasions that full tariffs will be applied to the United Kingdom in the event of 'no-deal'."

Dr Fox added: "It is important that public debate on this topic is conducted on the basis of fact rather than supposition, so that we are able to make decisions in the best interests of our country."

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