A no-deal Brexit would be a “mistake we would regret for generations”, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Mr Hunt also revealed that the Government would consider EU proposals that demanded accepting European environmental and social legislation, in order to facilitate a free trade agreement.
The comments came in an interview with ITV News after a meeting with the Dutch foreign minister as part of a three-day tour of Northern Europe.
When asked whether he was presenting the Government’s Brexit plan as “take it or leave it”, Mr Hunt answered: “No, but it is a framework on which I believe the ultimate deal will be based and I’ve been to several countries and met seven foreign ministers and am meeting more in the weeks ahead and I’m getting a strong sense that not just in Holland but in many of the places I’ve visited that they do want to engage seriously to try and find a way through to try and get a pragmatic outcome.”
When asked if the UK would make concessions regarding environmental and social legislation, Mr Hunt responded: “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.”
Discussing the risk of no proper negotiated deal he said: “It would be a mistake we would regret for generations, if we had a messy, ugly divorce and would inevitably change British attitudes towards Europe.”
Asked to compare himself with Boris Johnson’s approach as foreign secretary he said: “I think the role of the foreign secretary is to go around foreign capitals and point out the implications of not getting a deal are profound in terms of our friendship and corporation with foreign countries across a whole range of areas.”
Mr Hunt went on to respond to reports that Brussels Brexit negotiators were concerned they were being bugged by British spies.
Officials had raised security concerns after the UK obtained sensitive documents “within hours” of them being discussed, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief Brexit negotiator, reportedly told officials at a European Council working party on exit talks that “it could not be excluded” that British intelligence had penetrated their meetings.
Mr Hunt, when asked about the rumours, said: “I’m Foreign Secretary and foreign secretaries never comment on such matters but you are a journalist and you don’t have any trouble finding out what is going on in those meeting just like you have no problems in finding out what’s happening in our London meetings.”
A European Commission spokesman told journalists in Brussels at a regular briefing: “The commission’s position today is that we cannot comment on this press report.”
It comes as Brexit talks resumed in Brussels between UK and EU officials.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier are not involved in the latest round of discussions, which are focused on the Irish border and future relations, and are due to finish on Friday.
The spokesman said: “As this week’s round is at technical level there won’t be a meeting between Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab.
“We will confirm in due course whether a subsequent meeting has been arranged.”