Jeremy Hunt warns Tory leadership rivals that no-deal Brexit would be 'political suicide'
Jeremy Hunt has warned his fellow Conservative leadership contenders that they would be committing "political suicide" if they tried to push the UK towards a no-deal exit from the European Union.
The Foreign Secretary said leaving the EU without a deal risked handing power to Jeremy Corbyn "by Christmas" because MPs would rise up in Parliament and bring down the Government rather than allow such an outcome.
The intervention will be seen as an attack on staunch Brexiteer candidates Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey, who have all said they would be willing to take Britain out of the bloc without an agreement on 31 October.
But, writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt urged his fellow candidates not to try and trigger a general election to gain a mandate for a no-deal - pointing to the Conservatives' hammering in the EU elections.
"Any Prime Minister who promised to leave the EU by a specific date – without the time to renegotiate and pass a new deal – would, in effect, be committing to a general election the moment Parliament tried to stop it," he warned.
"And trying to deliver no deal through a general election is not a solution; it is political suicide. That would delight Nigel Farage and probably put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 by Christmas."
Mr Hunt - who is vying for the top job alongside nine other contenders including new entrants Kit Malthouse and Sajid Javid - also made clear that he would instead try to reopen Brexit negotiations with the European Union, with a "different deal" now "the only solution" to the deadlock.
"That means negotiations that take us out of the customs union while generously respecting legitimate concerns about the Irish border," he said.
The Foreign Secretary added: "Why would the EU leaders do that? Because they do not want the shadow of Brexit hanging over them. Go to them with a shared problem and there is a chance of a shared solution."
Mr Hunt's warning that a push for a no-deal Brexit would bring down the Government echoes that of his Cabinet colleague Philip Hammond.
The Chancellor this weekend told Tory leadership candidates that they would not "survive" any attempt to force a no-deal Brexit through Parliament.
He asked: "How will they govern if they have defied Parliament on such an important issue?
"This has to be done by compromise - by finding a route through in Parliament that can command a... majority of Parliamentarians."
But one Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome: "This is incredible from Hunt. He’s spent the last six months in Cabinet arguing for no deal to be kept on table."