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Mon, 6 July 2020

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Striking Brexit deal with Labour could alienate Tory MPs, Jeremy Hunt warns

Striking Brexit deal with Labour could alienate Tory MPs, Jeremy Hunt warns
2 min read

Tory MPs could be forced to drop their support for Theresa May's Brexit deal if she signs a compromise agreement with Labour, Jeremy Hunt has warned.

The Foreign Secretary said talks aimed at thrashing out a joint-approach with the opposition could see the Prime Minister "lose more Conservative MPs" than she gains in Labour votes.

Speaking to The Telegraph on a trip to Africa, Mr Hunt said that weeks of discussions between the two sides had been "more detailed and productive than we thought and expected".

But he said it would still be "very difficult to imagine a rose garden moment" between the two leaders - a reference to the friendly 2010 press conference held by David Cameron and Nick Clegg after a coalition deal was struck.

And he added: "There is always a danger of doing a deal with Labour that [means] you lose more Conservative MPs than you gain Labour MPs, but I think the essential question is whether Labour are serious about delivering Brexit."

Mr Hunt's gloomy verdict on the talks appears to put him at odds with the signals sent by both sides after a fresh round of discussions on Monday.

David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, said negotiations at the Cabinet Office had been "positive and productive", while Labour's negotiating team is understood to have felt ministers demonstrated a willingness to shift on some of their red lines.

Labour is demanding that the Prime Minister signs up to a customs union with the European Union - a move that risks infuriating Conservative MPs who believe it would undermine Britain's ability to strike independent trade deals after Brexit.

Mr Hunt, who is being talked up as a potential successor to Mrs May, meanwhile cautioned against holding a Conservative leadership contest before any Brexit deal had been passed.

He said: "The process of a Tory leadership election would inevitably involve candidates setting out their red lines which might itself mean that finding a compromise to get Brexit over the line becomes harder."

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