Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt says he could withhold part of £39bn EU divorce bill

Posted On: 
30th June 2019

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has said that he could hold back some of the £39billion "divorce bill" from the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Jeremy Hunt is battling it out with Boris Johnson to be the next Prime Minister
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary, who is battling it out with Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister, told the Sunday Times he would not hand over “a penny more than is legally required”.

He told the paper: “As a businessman I always paid my bills. That being said, if we leave without a deal I will not hand over a penny more than is legally required of us.

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“Anyone who thinks I am going to write a blank cheque to the European Union is sorely mistaken.”

The move is an attempt to match Mr Johnson’s approach, who in early June said he would refuse to hand over the multi-billion pound sum until the bloc offers better terms.

The paper also reported that Mr Hunt would appoint ex-Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to lead his Brexit negotiating team in a bid to land a Canadian-style free-trade deal with Brussels.

A member of the Foreign Secretary's team added: “Stephen Harper knows how you negotiate trade deals with both the EU and the US. He’s got the T-shirt.”

Mr Hunt said that it would be known “by the beginning of October” whether it was possible to land a deal with the bloc that could be supported by MPs, adding: “If it isn’t, I’ll take us out without a deal.”

He also said he “won’t countenance” a deal with Labour to remain in a customs union, as attempted by Mrs May after she deal failed to pass the Commons on three occasions.

Meanwhile Penny Mordaunt, one of Mr Hunt’s most high-profile backers, said Mr Hunt should be selected as leader because he could persuade Liberal Democrat and Green supporters to vote Conservative.

The Defence Secretary and prominent Brexiteer, told the Sunday Telegraph: "I would not support Jeremy if I did not think that not only can he beat Labour in a general election - Jeremy Corbyn as well - but also take on other parties.

"It is not a straight fight between us and Labour in every seat. We have also got to make sure that the Liberal Democrats don't get another foothold, and another parties as well.

"If you look where we have won and won well, it's because we have been able to reach out to people who are choosing between, not just us and Labour but us and the Liberals and the Greens."

Her remarks come after a YouGov poll found that 41% of voters would prefer Mr Hunt to be Prime Minister, against 29% for Mr Johnson.