Probability of exit without deal increasing by the day, UK foreign secretary says
The Brexit process is currently heading for no deal by accident, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said during talks in Austria, stepping up his warnings about a potential collapse in talks.
This is not project fear, this is project reality, Hunt told a press conference in Vienna alongside his Austrian counterpart, Karin Kneissl.
We have to make a decision on Britains future relationship with the EU by the end of this year and we have to be very honest with ourselves about the choices that we face. At the moment we are heading for no deal by accident.
His comments follow similar warnings on Tuesday during meetings in France, when he told the Evening Standard: The probability of no deal is increasing by the day until we see a change of approach from the European commission, who have this view that they just need to wait and Britain will blink.
Hunts diplomatic efforts will be followed this week by talks between Theresa May and the French president, Emmanuel Macron. May will leave the Italian lakes, where she is on holiday, to go to Macrons country retreat on the Mediterranean coast on Friday.
Speaking in Vienna, Hunt said a no-deal Brexit would have a profound impact on the relations between Britain and EU countries for a generation. It would, he said, be a huge geo-strategic mistake.
He later tweeted:
Kneissl, whose country holds the EUs rotating presidency, played down the concern while saying that Austria and the EU were prepared for the different possible scenarios.
Speaking before their talks, Kneissl told BBC Radio 4s Today: From the [European] commissions side there is a clear-cut schedule, so an accident is not really something people are working for.
She later said that the talks with Hunt had been excellent and inspiring and insisted that Austria was pursuing a pragmatic approach prepared for the different possible scenarios of Brexit.
At the press conference Hunt stressed the importance of Austrias current role, after May travelled to Vienna last week to meet the countrys chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
Austria has a special role because of its EU presidency, he said. And so all we say is, looking at your huge experience of foreign policy and historical knowledge, lets not make this one of those moments where a terrible mistake is made which we are still talking about in 20 or 30 years.
Lets have a pragmatic solution that allows that deep and special partnership, friendship, between the UK and Europe to continue.