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Sunday shows round-up: I am prepared to leave without a deal, says Jeremy Hunt

16 June 2019

3:20 PM

16 June 2019

3:20 PM

Jeremy Hunt – EU will be ‘willing to renegotiate’ Brexit deal

The Foreign Secretary joined Andrew Marr this morning, days after coming second in round one of the ongoing Conservative leadership contest. With a good chance of reaching the final round, Hunt asserted that, unlike frontrunner Boris Johnson, he would be able to persuade other European leaders to amend Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement to remove the controversial backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland:

AM: Have you got any evidence at all that anybody is prepared to [reopen the negotiations]?

JH: When you talk to European leaders, as I do, they want to solve this problem. They say that if they were approached by a British Prime Minister, someone they were willing to deal with, they would be willing to renegotiate the package… I would never pretend that this is going to be easy, but nor is it impossible.

I am ‘prepared to leave without a deal’

Hunt also stressed that if it became clear that no progress could be made on this front, then he would keep his promise to leave on WTO terms:

JH: If there is no prospect of getting a deal that can get through Parliament on 31st of October, then I would be prepared to leave without a deal…The difference between me and Boris is that I’m saying I would try for a deal.

I have taken ‘difficult decisions’

Hunt’s six year stint as Health Secretary saw a number of controversies, including the junior doctors’ strike and the NHS’s failure to meet targets for waiting times and cancer treatment. Hunt defended his record, arguing that his experience would stand him in good stead as the nation’s Prime Minister:

JH: I will be the sort of Prime Minister who takes difficult decisions. I won’t be someone who courts [popularity]… By the end of my time as Health Secretary, nearly 3 million more patients were using good or outstanding hospitals compared to when I started… That was a record I was proud of.

Cut corporation tax to ‘turbo-charge’ growth

Moving to more traditional bread and butter issues, Marr asked how Hunt would fund his campaign commitments to spend more on defence, education and social care:

AM: Where is the money coming from?

JH: …The biggest most expensive pledge I’ve made would be to cut corporation tax to Irish levels to turbo-charge our economy… When you do that, you can start to see how to get our GDP up from 1.5 per cent to maybe 3 per cent – American levels. And that is the kind of exciting way that we will find more money for public services.

Rory Stewart – ‘I don’t even know what Boris believes’

The International Development Secretary, who has surprised many by making it through to the second round of the Tory leadership contest, maintained his robust scepticism of Boris Johnson’s campaign, and argued that now is the right time to ‘ruffle feathers’:

RS: How is Boris going to deliver Brexit?… I don’t even know what he believes… He won’t talk to you, he won’t talk to the public… We want him to sit at this debate tonight and tell us, because the real problem in politics… is a problem of trust.

Brexit could be solved by ‘a citizen’s assembly’

Stewart outlined his proposal for a ‘citizens’ assembly’ if the deadlock in Parliament continued. The idea, popular among some Labour backbenchers, has previously been used by the Irish government to look at several major issues, including abortion reform:

RS: [It] would be like a jury, selected very scientifically across the country… You’d select randomly from the electoral register, 50,000 people. You would then write or phone them to check who’s available, and then you’d use a polling company to make sure they were representative of the country. And the reason to do it is to release the pressure from Parliament.

A customs union would be ‘a good thing’

As for his preferred Brexit outcome, Stewart told Marr that remaining a member of the single market would be a ‘big mistake’, but he wanted to continue with a customs agreement as per the government’s Withdrawal Agreement:

AM: [Do you want a] customs union?

RS: If what you mean by that is an arrangement whereby we have zero tariffs, zero quota access to European markets… and if we can get that without regulations on the City of London, and without [freedom of movement], and leaving all the institutions of the EU, of course, I think that would be a good thing for the British economy… I want frictionless trade.

Andy Burnham – The North needs investment for the next 25 years

The Mayor of Greater Manchester also spoke to Marr and made his case for greater transport and infrastructure investment in his part of the country:

AB: [High speed rail does] not solve transport problems in the North of England. If you are to build a ‘Northern Powerhouse’… it means putting the North at the front of the queue for transport and infrastructure investment for the next 25 years, as London has been for the last 50… We’re still waiting.

Richard Ratcliffe – At times I have ‘resented’ Boris Johnson

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the woman imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage – which she and the British government strenuously deny – has told Marr that he has mixed feelings about Boris Johnson’s role in the case, which came to a head while Johnson was serving as Foreign Secretary:

RR: He clearly made a mistake, and clearly tried to correct it, and made a promise that he wasn’t able to deliver on. At times I’ve resented him for it… but I think he got over-criticised for some things, under-criticised for some things, and [now] we push Jeremy Hunt to solve it.

Dominic Raab – Tories ‘are toast’ if we don’t leave by October

The former Brexit Secretary joined Sophy Ridge to discuss his leadership campaign. With Brexit such a key issue in voters’ minds, Dominic Raab warned that not delivering on it would be a potentially fatal mistake for his party:

DR: The Tory party will be toast unless we’re out by the end of October… People need to wake up to this. We’ve seen from the Peterborough by-election, we’ve seen from the European elections… the scandal that people feel that we haven’t kept our promises… I certainly think the Conservatives cannot win an election unless we deliver Brexit.

‘I’m a champion of equality’

In contrast to other candidates in the Tory leadership race, Raab has refused to describe himself as a ‘feminist’. Raab defended his distaste for the term:

DR: What I want to do is get to a stage where we don’t really think about gender… I’m a full-throated champion of equality and meritocracy… Polling suggests that the overwhelming majority of women… do not consider themselves feminists, so I’m probably slightly more in tune with the rest of the country.

Amber Rudd – Proroguing Parliament is ‘a ridiculous suggestion’

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has been viewed as an influential ally in the leadership race, has attacked the principle of ‘proroguing’ or shutting down parliamentary sessions in order to default to a no-deal Brexit:

AR: The idea of leaving the EU to take back more control into Parliament, and to consider closing Parliament in order to deal with that is the most extraordinary idea I’ve ever heard… It is a ridiculous suggestion.

Abortion changes are ‘out of the question’

Having declared her support for Jeremy Hunt, Rudd told Ridge that despite Hunt’s personal views on reducing the time limits for abortions, there was no chance that the current laws were going to change:

AR: I spoke to him, and he reassured me… that he has no plans to change the abortion laws as they stand. I am very clear that any government that I am part of… has to be absolutely committed to maintaining women’s rights as they stand… I think we have very robust effective abortion laws, and they do not need changing.

Tobias Ellwood – Iran ‘does not have licence’ to attack ships

The Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood laid out the government’s position on the oil tankers attacked in the Strait of Hormuz, with Iran believed to be the culprit:

TE: These tensions that are arising should be a concern for us all… I understand the frustrations over the nuclear deal, but that does not give [Iran] licence to start attacking ships… I don’t think that Iran should be under any doubt that we will protect our assets and our interests in the region.

Kim Leadbeater – No place for violent language in our society

And finally, three years on from the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, her sister Kim Leadbeater has argued for those in public life to cut out violent language from their rhetoric. The debate has been reignited after comedian Jo Brand joked that Nigel Farage should have battery acid thrown over him:

KL: I don’t think there is a place in politics or comedy for the use of violent language. No one wants to stop [politicians or comedians] doing their job, but if you have a public role… we all have responsibility for the language we use and the things that we say.

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