Jeremy Hunt: Comparing EU to USSR has helped Brexit negotiations

Posted On: 
19th October 2018

Jeremy Hunt has suggested his controversial comparison between the EU and the Soviet Union eased the logjam in Brexit negotiations.

Mr Hunt has suggested his remarks about the EU has led to a breakthrough in the relationship.
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary said Brussels had taken a "much more constructive approach" to talks since he made the jibe in his Conservative conference speech earlier this month.

Mr Hunt sparked a wave of anger from diplomatic and military figures when he compared the EU to a Soviet prison and said the UK was being “punished” for trying to leave.

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But questioned about the comments on the BBC Today programme this morning, he hinted that his remarks may have helped secure a future deal with the bloc.

He said: “It was a very passionate argument that said the EU was set up to defend our freedoms against totalitarianism, so it was not appropriate for a club of free nations to take the attitude that someone that leaves should be punished.

“My point was that it wasn’t appropriate to take those tactics and say that someone who leaves has to be punished."

He added: “However, I have to say that in the period since that speech we have had a very different approach from the EU, a much more constructive approach that has led to the situation we are in now where all but one or two issues have been resolved.

“And that is why I think we can be hopeful that we will eventually get the deal that we need.”

Mr Hunt had come under fire from political and diplomatic figures from around the EU and the UK after telling Conservative delegates in Birmingham others “prisoners” would attempt to leave the bloc if it pressed ahead with hard-headed negotiating tactics.

"What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream? The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving,” he said.

"The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish it will grow and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape."

His comments prompted Latvia’s ambassador to the UK to point out that the USSR “killed, deported, exiled and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Latvia's inhabitants”, before defending the EU as having brought the country “prosperity, equality, growth, respect”.

Meanwhile ex-Foreign Office permanent secretary Lord Ricketts branded the claim “rubbish unworthy of a British Foreign Secretary” while his successor Sir Simon Fraser called it a “shocking failure of judgement”.