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Jeremy Hunt: it's Theresa May's deal or no-Brexit

Jeremy Hunt has re-framed the Brexit debate. Credit: PA

The foreign secretary has just taken a huge political risk on behalf of the prime minister.

He has re-framed the Brexit debate by saying it's a choice between "a version" of her deal or - probably - no Brexit, because he thinks parliament would find a way to block a no-deal Brexit and won't be able to rally around an alternative Brexit.

Jeremy Hunt also said it would be impossible for her deal to win the meaningful vote unless there are "legally binding" changes to the Northern Ireland backstop - which the EU has ruled out.

So that sounded like de facto confirmation from the top of the government that she will lose on Tuesday.

What is he doing?

Well his ostensible motive was to persuade Brexit-supporting MPs to change their minds and back the PM, at the last - by scaring them that they won't get the no-deal exit some of them want, and that by voting against the PM they are highly likely to keep us in the EU.

Jeremy Hunt has conceded the PM's Brexit plan is deeply flawed. Credit: PA

But there are, as I say, considerable risks to this strategy.

One is that it won't persuade many true Brexiters, especially since he spent a good chunk of his interview on the Today Programme conceding the PM's Brexit plan is deeply flawed.

Another is that, at a time when morale in the People's Vote camp was flagging, and when they feared the likeliest outcome was some kind of super-fudged Brexit (hardly even in name only), he has reassured them there is a route to a referendum (if the foreign secretary thinks there is, surely there is).

So even if he persuades a few wobbly Brexiters to vote with the PM on Tuesday, he has guaranteed that Tory MPs who want a referendum will not be wooed back to her cause.

As has been his style recently, Jeremy Hunt has just chucked an enormous rock into the Brexit pond.

Goodness only knows whether it will set the good ship Theresa May back on course, or sink it.