Jeremy Hunt has said he would lead Britain out of the European Union without a deal if he had no other choice, but that he would do so with a heavy heart.
The foreign secretary, who is running for Tory leadership after Theresa May threw in the towel last month, said this morning such a decision would be a last resort, given the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on business.
“In the end, if the only way to leave the European Union to deliver on the result of the referendum was to leave without a deal, then I would do that,” he told BBC Radio 4. “But I would do so very much as a last resort, with a heavy heart because of the risks to businesses and the risks to the union.”
“I would be prepared to do it in extremis but I wouldn't do it if there was a prospect of a better deal and I think there is a prospect of a better deal and I think it's possible to get one before 31 October, although I don’t pretend it’s going to be easy.”
Hunt said last week that a no-deal Brexit would be “political suicide”. It would force Britain into an early general election that could leave the Conservative party in ruins, he wrote in the Telegraph.
His comments came after a disastrous showing for the Tories in the European parliamentary elections last month, in which they won just four seats and came fifth place overall, behind the Greens. The result has broadly been interpreted as a reaction to the party’s failure to leave the EU by its original end-of-March deadline.
Alongside his predecessor as foreign secretary Boris Johnson and environment secretary Michael Gove, Hunt is seen as a frontrunner in the race to be the next Prime Minister. Since Theresa May announced her resignation last month, 13 Conservative MPs have thrown their hat into the ring to replace her.