Jeremy Hunt calls for French and German Brexit help as he warns chances of no deal 'increasing by the day'
Jeremy Hunt has called on France and Germany to urge Brussels to relax its tough Brexit stance amid the growing risk of a no deal outcome.
The Foreign Secretary said the approach taken by the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier could inflict a “breakdown in relations and trust between Britain and European countries”.
A no deal outcome, he added, would “change British public attitudes towards Europe for a generation” and mark an "economic tragedy".
Ahead of talks with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris, Mr Hunt warned of “profound economic consequences” for both the UK and continent if Britain were to crash out.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, he said: “The probability of No Deal is increasing by the day until we see a change of approach from the European Commission who have this view that they just need to wait and Britain will blink. That is just a profound misunderstanding of us as a nation.
“There is a real chance of No Deal by accident. Everyone is assuming, no, no, no, this will never happen. Well, actually, it could.
“France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the Commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel because for every job lost in the UK, there will be jobs lost in Europe as well if Brexit goes wrong.”
Mr Hunt said that while he always believed Britain would “find a way to thrive economically” regardless of the outcome of talks, the breakdown in trust that resulted would be a “profound geo-strategic mistake”.
And he warned France, which has sought to take advantage of concerns from the financial sector of Britain being outside the EU, that European companies who rely on City of London funding could find it more difficult to access.
He continued: “There would not just be economic consequences for the UK, there would be profound economic consequences for the rest of Europe.
“Probably the City, as the financier of European business, is the central point to make here. If it became harder for European businesses to access finance, that is far from trivial.
“The City itself would find a way to thrive, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
“If it became a low-tax, low-regulation, offshoot fully outside the EU, it would find a way to thrive in those circumstances. But for European businesses the impact would be profound.”
Elsewhere he said the Cabinet had a “united position”, which was to maintain close ties with Europe – batting away the hard Brexit being demanded by Tory backbenchers including Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Mr Hunt’s intervention comes amid his first major diplomatic trip since taking over from Boris Johnson earlier this month, having met with the Chinese Premier yesterday.