Jeremy Hunt claims Angela Merkel is willing to look at new Brexit proposals as rivals swap spending pledges

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has claimed Angela Merkel is willing to look at new Brexit proposals put forward by the next prime minister, as he set out his solution to the Irish border issue.

The Foreign Secretary, in an hour-long interview on Sky News, said the German chancellor had told him she would look at any packages put forward, and that he believed she would do so with an “open mind”.

Mr Hunt said: “I’ve had a conversation with Angela Merkel and… (she said) ‘of course we will look at any proposals made by a new UK prime minister’ because she wants to solve this problem…

Angela Merkel is ready to rethink Brexit, claims Jeremy Hunt Credit: AP

“And providing we’re sensible, and I think the approach that I’ve laid out is a sensible approach and a fair approach, and I think that it’s in Germany’s interests as well.”

Pressed further by presenter Kay Burley, he said: “What she has said is she will look at the package and I think she will look at it with an open mind.”

Addressing the Irish border backstop, he said he believes there is “technology there now” to provide a solution – adding that checks can be done away from borders.

He added: “My impression having read many Government documents on this is that it is, I think, overall it is technically possible and it’s a question of creating a negotiating environment where it is also politically acceptable to the EU and to the government in the Republic of Ireland.

“That is why I think if we send the right prime minister we have a chance.”

Asked if it was possible before 2030, Mr Hunt replied: “I believe it’s technically possible now.”

Mr Hunt also spoke about his background, saying he felt “deeply uncomfortable” that his “posh school” education meant his life chances may be better than someone else who did not receive the same schooling.

“I am incredibly proud of the education reforms that have been championed by Michael Gove under this Conservative government, that have improved the quality of state schools so that a number of them are as good as Charterhouse, the school I went to,” he said.

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have made big spending pledges. Credit: PA

“And I think that’s a fantastic reform, but I still think we have a national blind spot, and that’s why I said I want education to be our social mission.”

His comments came after his rival for the top job, Boris Johnson, took questions from Tory members during a “telephone town hall” event.

The former foreign secretary told the party faithful: “I’m the right guy now to deliver for our party. We need someone who believes in Brexit and can deliver it.

“I want to unite the party and country with a modern one-nation vision. And we need someone who can defeat Jeremy Corbyn and the London Labour left. I’ve done it before and I can do it again.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned both leadership hopefuls to watch what spending pledges they are making. Credit: PA

Earlier, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned the leadership candidates to “stop and think” about making expensive campaign pledges, saying promises had been made that “greatly exceed” the fiscal headroom.

Both candidates have made costly pledges as they vie to replace Theresa May as prime minister.

Mr Hammond told the BBC: “My concern is that this Government has built up a reputation for fiscal responsibility and the British people have worked incredibly hard over a decade now to rebuild our public finances and I think it’s very important that we don’t throw that away…

“Whether it’s a leadership competition or a general election, there is always a temptation to sort of get into a bidding war about spending more and cutting taxes.

“But you can’t do both and if we’re not careful all we end up doing is borrowing more, spending more on interest instead of on our schools and our hospitals and our police and delivering a bigger burden of debt to our children and our grandchildren.

“I don’t think either of the candidates would want to do that, that is not what the Tory party is about, but we just need to sometimes stop and think about what we’re doing.”