LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday he would opt to leave the European Union without a deal if he was faced with a choice between a no-deal Brexit or not leaving the bloc at all.
Britain’s exit from the EU has been delayed until as late as Oct. 31 after parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal with Brussels three times. She is now seeking to reach a compromise with the Labour Party on a way forward.
Hunt is tipped as a possible successor to May, who has promised to step down before the next phase of Brexit negotiations but is under pressure from some in her Conservative Party to go sooner.
Asked at an event in parliament if he would be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal, Hunt said: “If there was a binary choice between no deal or no Brexit, I would choose no deal because I think the democratic risk of no Brexit ultimately is higher than the economic risk of no deal.”
Hunt also said he did not believe parliament, which has repeatedly voted against a no deal Brexit, would allow Britain to leave the bloc without an agreement.
“I would always prefer to leave with a deal because I think there will be disruption without a deal ... it would potentially be very significant and that is something I think anyone sensible would wish to avoid.”
Hunt said foreign ministers of other countries were worried about the paralysis in Britain over the way forward on Brexit, and that it would be a “big mistake” to hold a national election before Britain has left the EU.
“So as far as Brexit is concerned, my view is very straight forward: we have to leave, we have to leave quickly, we have to leave cleanly,” he said.
Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Guy Faulconbridge