British PM hopeful Hunt unveils no-deal Brexit plans
Hunt is vying with frontrunner Boris Johnson to win the support of predominately pro-Brexit Conservative Party members, who will vote this month for Theresa May’s replacement as prime minister.
Hunt, the foreign minister, who has previously said leaving the European Union without a deal “would be a mistake we would regret for generations”, made on Monday his strongest commitment to back such a move by unveiling a 10-point plan.
“No-deal is obviously not my preferred destination. But if a withdrawal deal is simply not on the cards then the only way to fulfil the democratic mandate of the referendum is to leave without a deal, which is what we will do,” he said at the Policy Exchange think-tank event in London.
His plan would cancel all leave in government departments in preparation for a no-deal exit from the EU, and slash corporate tax rates.
The government would also channel £6 billion ($7.6 billion, 6.7 billion euros) to industries most threatened by a no-deal Brexit.
“We spent just over £1 trillion bailing out the banks after the financial crisis, so if we did it for the bankers then why wouldn’t we do what is needed for our fishermen and our farmers?”, he said.
Hunt plans to raid the £26 billion “headroom” built up by a decade of budget tightening since the financial crisis.
‘Wing and a prayer’
“When you face an economic shock, it is just basic economics that you find support for the industries that are affected,” Hunt said.
“It is temporary support, but it allows them to change their business models.”
But finance minister Philip Hammond who oversaw much of those cuts immediately dismissed the plan.
“The ‘fiscal firepower’ we have built up in case of a no-deal Brexit will only be available for extra spending if we leave with an orderly transition,” Hammond wrote on Twitter.
“If not, it will all be needed to plug the hole a no-deal Brexit will make in the public finances.”
Hunt’s rival Johnson also said at the weekend that he would spend about £25 billion to fund his spending plans, including a promise to unfreeze public sector pay increases.
Hunt believes the EU will reopen negotiations if there is a serious threat of a no-deal, and said he would only ask for an extension to the current October 31 deadline if a deal was about to be struck.
“As prime minister, I will make a judgement on 30th September as to whether there is a realistic chance of a new deal being agreed that can pass the House of Commons,” he said.
“If my judgement is that there is no deal to be done I will immediately cease all discussions with the European Union and focus the whole country’s attention on no deal preparations.”
Hunt made a thinly-veiled jibe at Johnson over his more vague plans for getting Britain out of the EU.
“Without the right prime minister and the right plan, Brexit is just a wing and a prayer,” he said. “We can do better.”
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