Jeremy Hunt makes another leadership pitch by speaking out against staying in an EU customs union

JEREMY Hunt makes another thinly veiled leadership pitch by speaking out against the prospect of Britain staying in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary warned that it would fail British exporters because the UK would have no say in trade deals the EU signs with third countries.

His comments came in an interview with the Press Association where he refused to reveal the naughtiest thing he has done – because it’s too X-rated.

But the Foreign Secretary said it was “definitely naughtier than running through a wheat field,” which Theresa May famously said was the naughtiest thing she had ever done.


Theresa May is considering agreeing a cross-party deal with Labour to keep Britain in the tariff-free wall, which would bar Britain from striking new trade deals with other countries on goods but would allow agreements solely on services.

But Mr Hunt, one of the favourites to replace Mrs May, said last night: “I’ve never believed that a customs union is a long-term solution because how could you expect the EU, for example, to stand up for the rights of Scotch whisky distillers if they were negotiating a trade deal with the United States or Japan, even though the UK had absolutely no say in that trade deal?

“There’s no example anywhere in the world where a large economy like the UK – the fifth largest in the world – subcontracts the negotiation of its trade deals.

“But I think that what Labour really want when they talk about a customs union is the benefits of a customs union: friction-less trade, to facilitate issues around the border in Northern Ireland and manufacture and supply chains, and we want that too.

There’s no example anywhere in the world where a large economy like the UK subcontracts the negotiation of its trade deals.

“So, if we can find a solution that delivers the benefits of the customs union without signing up to the current arrangements, then I think there will be potential.”

He said that while he supported the Prime Minister’s deal, there may be things that can be done to make it “more acceptable” to Labour without compromising on the “things that we think are essential”.

Mr Hunt warned that if politicians do not resolve Brexit then they will have “failed as a political class” in doing what Labour and the Tories promised at the last general election.


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He also said it was “still not impossible” to pass the Withdrawal Act before May 22 to avoid having to hold the European elections.

The Foreign Secretary said: “That is what we are all desperately hoping for because it’s not going to be pretty for any of the big parties if we have to fight these elections.

“If we don’t have the Withdrawal Act in law by May 22, that is what will happen.”

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