Jeremy Hunt has been criticised by Tory Eurosceptics after warning that a “messy” no-deal Brexit would be a mistake the UK and the EU would “regret for generations”.
The Foreign Secretary, speaking during a visit to the Netherlands, suggested that Britain could accept EU environmental and social regulations in a bid to secure a free trade deal.
He told ITV News that the UK would “find a way to prosper and thrive” in the event of no-deal but said it would represent a “huge geo-strategic mistake”.
He said: “In terms of everything else that happens on the world stage and it would be a mistake that we would regret for generations if we were to have a messy ugly divorce and that’s what we all want to avoid.”
Conor Burns, a Tory MP, said: “The thing that we want to avoid for ‘generations to come’ is being locked into a permanent orbit around the EU where we end up with a deal but don’t have a seat around the table.
“Many of us still believe what we have been defending for the last two years, which is the Prime Minister’s line that no deal is better than a bad deal. It’s nothing to be afraid of.
“They seem to be prepared to sell the reservation in the long-term to avoid disruption in the short term. It’s barmy.”
The Foreign Secretary said that Theresa May’s Chequers plan is not “take it or leave it” and indicated that the UK could make further concessions.
Asked whether Britain would be prepared to accept the EU’s demands that Britain retains European environmental and social legislation, he said: “We totally understand the need to have a level playing field in any free trade agreement
” I think we have to see what their proposal was, some of those things can have an impact on the level playing field some won’t.”
He added: “This is about the future of Europe as much as the future of the UK and if we don’t end up with a deal; of course there will be a difficult period to get through, but the UK would find a way to prosper and thrive as we have done so many times in our history but it would be a huge geo-strategic mistake.
“This is a period where the world is increasingly unstable; we have chemical weapons attacks in Salisbury; in our own country by opportunistic powers like Russia; there’s a very changing global situation.”