Chances of Brexit not happening growing, says UK foreign secretary
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Chances of Brexit not happening growing, says UK foreign secretary

If the withdrawal agreement is voted down on Tuesday, Theresa May and others have stated that the United Kingdom will move into “uncharted territory”.

world Updated: Jan 13, 2019 03:00 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
no Brexit,United Kingdom,Brexit
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain. (REUTERS)

Given the arithmetic in the House of Commons and the Theresa May government suffering two defeats this week, the chances of Brexit not happening at all are rising, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Friday..

If the withdrawal agreement is voted down on Tuesday, May and others have stated that the United Kingdom will move into “uncharted territory”. MPs have used parliamentary devices to dig into the Brexit process to curb the May government’s powers.

As debate continued in Parliament on Friday, in an unprecedented step, former MI6 chef Richard Dearlove and former chief of defence staff Charles Guthrie wrote to the Conservative party, calling the agreement a “bad” one for national security and urged its MPs not to vote for it.

Hunt, whose comments on morning BBC radio were interpreted as trying to scare rebel Conservative MPs from voting against the agreement, said if Brexit did not happen on March 29, it would have serious implications for people’s trust in politics.

He said: “The parliamentary arithmetic is challenging. But, also, the choices are very clear. And I think after this week, things have changed. Up till now I think people have quite rightly been worrying about the prospects of no deal. Now there is another possibility coming into sight, which is actually no Brexit.”

“And why is that? We have a government that is committed to delivering Brexit. But it doesn’t have a majority. If this deal is rejected, ultimately what we may end up with is not a different type of Brexit but Brexit paralysis. And Brexit paralysis ultimately could lead to no Brexit.”

A no-Brexit situation, according to him, would be “an incredibly damaging breach of trust”, besides adversely affecting Britain’s international standing: “If we were, as a political class, not to deliver Brexit, that would be a fundamental breach of trust between the people and the politicians. I think that is something that we would regret for many, many generations.”

This week showed that Parliament had the ability to assert itself and shape outcomes in the Brexit process, Hunt said. The government lost when two amendments sponsored by Brexit rebels across parties passed in the House of Commons.

One amendment curbed the government’s financial powers and the other made it mandatory for May to return to Parliament with a Plan B within three days of the withdrawal agreement being voted down on Tuesday.

First Published: Jan 11, 2019 17:02 IST