Jeremy Hunt vows to include DUP and Tory hardliners on Brexit negotiating team if he becomes PM

Posted On: 
28th May 2019

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has said he will include the DUP and Tory eurosceptics on his Brexit negotiating team if he becomes Prime Minister.

Jeremy Hunt has vowed to return to Brussels to strike a new deal on Brexit

Conservatives from Scotland and Wales would also join him as he tried to re-draw the terms of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May, the Foreign Secretary said.

Mr Hunt said they would ensure the Government could agree a "common position" which could then be thrashed out with EU negotiators.

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Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, he said: "One of the reasons that they [the EU] weren't flexible in changing the withdrawal agreement is that they weren't confident that the British government would be able to deliver parliament for any deal that they agreed to."

He added: "We need to have a new negotiating team, in that team there needs to be not just the Government but the Democratic Unionist Party, the ERG, I think you should have someone from Scotland and Wales so that the Union side of these issues are properly thought through."

The European Commission insisted that the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened when it agreed to give the UK a seven-month extension to the Article 50 process.

But Mr Hunt said his new team could give Brussels the assurance that any new deal would already carry sufficient parliamentary support to pass through the Commons.

"One of the issues that we have had in the negotiations is that we haven't been able to carry this broad coalition - the coalition that you are going to need to get a deal through Parliament - because we are in a hung-parliament where no party has a majority," he said.

"So, Brussels, I think, at various stages, lost confidence that it was actually worth making concessions because we weren't sure we were going to be give them. This is a new structure."

He added: "It would include people who say if we can't get the right deal we should leave with no-deal."

Labour, he added, would be excluded from the team after they failed to show "good faith" during Brexit discussions with the Government, while Nigel Farage's Brexit Party - who have demanded a voice in any future negotiations after winning the European elections - should also not be involved because Mr Farage "doesn't want a deal".

But Mr Hunt, who batted away suggestions that EU leaders would refuse to renegotiate with the UK, admitted he had yet to approach any of the groups about the plan.

"There is no one in the EU who is going to believe now that the deal as it is currently constitued with the backstop as it is currenly constituted will get through Parliament," he said.

"They might of thought before the Brits will cave. They won't think that now."

He added: "The first step is to have a negotiating team that the other side thinks can delvier a majoirty in the House of Commons.

"You've got the people around the table who between them command the numbers in the House of Commons sufficient to get a deal over the line. That means proposing a different type of deal."

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt also warned that the Tories would be committing "political suicide" if they tried to push the UK towards a no-deal exit from the European Union.

He 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.