Jeremy Hunt has insisted that Britain would “survive and prosper” after a no-deal Brexit, the day after describing such an exit from the EU as a “mistake we would regret for generations”.
The Foreign Secretary said that failure to hammer out a deal with the UK would be “a big mistake for Europe”.
He insisted the Government would only sign up to a deal that respected the result of the 2016 election.
Mr Hunt had been criticised by Brexiteer MPs after an interview with ITV News on Thursday in which he appeared to play up the risks of leaving the EU in March without a deal.
In a tweet sent on Friday morning Mr Hunt said: “Important not to misrepresent my words: Britain WOULD survive and prosper without a deal… but it would be a big mistake for Europe because of inevitable impact on long term partnership with UK.
“We will only sign up to deal that respects referendum result.”
Speaking earlier to ITV Mr Hunt had discussed the risks of no proper negotiated deal, saying: “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.”
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.”
He 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.
Fellow Tory Conor Burns told the Telegraph that “the thing that we want to avoid for ‘generations to come’ is being locked into a permanent orbit around the EU where we end up with a deal but don’t have a seat around the table”.
The Danish finance minister on Friday echoed warnings that there is an even chance of the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal.
Kristian Jensen said time is running out to strike a deal that is positive for both Britain and the EU, after Latvia’s foreign minister claimed the chance of a no-deal Brexit is “50-50”.
Earlier this week, Edgars Rinkevics said there was a “very considerable risk” of a no-deal scenario but stressed he remained optimistic an agreement with Britain on its withdrawal from the European Union could be reached.
Mr Jensen, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, was asked about Mr Rinkevics’ remarks.
He said: “I also believe that 50-50 is a very good assessment because time is running out and we need to move really fast if we’ve got to strike a deal that is positive both for the UK and EU.
“Every forces who wants there to be a good deal needs to put in some effort in the months to come otherwise I’m afraid that time will run out.”
He went on to describe Theresa May’s Chequers plan as a “realistic proposal for good negotiations”.
“We need to go into a lot of details but I think it’s a very positive step forward and a necessary step,” he told the programme.