The U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, vying to succeed Theresa May, says no-deal Brexit is "political suicide."
The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it would be “political suicide” for Britain to pursue a no-deal Brexit, becoming the first senior figure vying to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May to do so.
The British Prime Minister announced her resignation Friday after repeatedly failing to secure parliament’s approval for her deal to leave the EU. Her foreseeable resignation set up a contest within the ruling Conservative party find a successor in the coming weeks.
That contest could determine how — or even whether — Britain leaves the EU or whether it will face a new national election, with its major political parties divided and shaken by months of uncertainty over Brexit.
Pitching himself in contrast to Boris Johnson and others who insist that leaving the EU without a deal must remain an option, Hunt said any such move will be blocked by other lawmakers and could trigger a national election.
If this were to happen, “trying to deliver no deal through a general election is not a solution; it is political suicide,” Hunt wrote Tuesday in the Daily Telegraph. “A different deal is, therefore, the only solution – and what I will pursue if I am leader.”
Hunt, who voted to stay in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, said he would try for a new agreement that would take Britain out of the EU customs union while “respecting legitimate concerns” around the Irish border.
The European Union says the Withdrawal Agreement it reached with May is final and cannot be renegotiated.
Trade Minister Liam Fox, not running for the premiership, said while leaving with a deal was preferable, the other leading candidates agreed that leaving the EU without a deal was better than not leaving at all.
“If the EU doesn’t want to negotiate any changes, which I think would be unfortunate and I think would be quite surprising, then I think that of course does increase the chance of a no-deal exit,” Fox said during an official visit to Egypt.
“Political suicide actually lies in not having a clean break from the EU and not leaving on the 31st October,” tweeted Esther McVey, a Brexit hardliner who is also looking to occupy 10 Downing Street.
Under the party’s rules for picking a new leader, Conservative lawmakers will select a shortlist of candidates and put them to party members for a vote. So far, 10 candidates are running.
The party and much of the U.K. is deeply split over Brexit, which Britain voted for by 52 percent to 48 nearly three years ago.
Many Conservative lawmakers oppose a no-deal exit, which businesses say would be catastrophic, while party activists are widely seen as more willing to support leaving with no agreement.
Conservative infighting has given Labour a possible chance to call off Brexit, saying a public vote — either a new national election or second referendum— is the way to reunite the country.
On Tuesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unequivocably announced that the party supports a holding of a referendum on any Brexit agreement that is presented, even those presented by his own party, according to Business Insider.
Under current legislation, Britain will automatically leave the EU Oct. 31 without an agreement unless parliament approves one first, the EU grants an extension or the government revokes its decision to leave.