Jeremy Hunt is willing to countenance a no-deal Brexit “with a heavy heart”, and on Monday will set out a detailed 10-point plan for mitigating the disruption of crashing out of the EU.
The foreign secretary, who is competing with Boris Johnson to become leader of the Conservative party, and Britain’s next prime minister, will lay out his plans in a speech ahead of a critical week in the contest. The two candidates will address party members at five hustings events ahead of ballots being sent out between July 6 and 8.
The no-deal plans mark an effort by Mr Hunt’s campaign to widen his appeal among the 160,000 predominantly pro-Brexit members of the party. The former health secretary, who voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, on Sunday said he would push through a no-deal Brexit, even if it destroyed some businesses.
On Monday he is expected say that if Britain’s food and agriculture industry faces World Trade Organization tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he will help them with a £6bn relief programme, in the same way that bankers were helped after the 2008 financial crash.
“I will mitigate the impact of no-deal Brexit on you and step in to help smooth those short-term difficulties,” Mr Hunt will say. “If we could do it for the bankers in the financial crisis, we can do it for our fisherman, farmers and small businesses now.”
The pledge is part of Mr Hunt’s 10-point plan for coping with a no-deal Brexit, which includes plans for a no-deal cabinet task force, a ramping up of the government’s preparations for a no-deal exit and a no-deal budget that would slash tax for businesses.
Mr Hunt, who has made his personal competence and seriousness a central campaign theme, will also stress how his no-deal Brexit plans contrast with Mr Johnson’s less detailed approach.
He will say Britain deserves a leader who will not only tell the European Commission he is ready to walk away from negotiations but to show them he is willing and able to do so.
“In the end, without those abilities, without that determination, and without that plan, it is just a wing and a prayer,” he will say.
On Sunday, the foreign secretary told the BBC that he would take the UK out of the bloc without a deal on October 31, even if it wiped out thriving businesses. “I would do so but I would do so with a heavy heart,” he said.
Mr Johnson, the frontrunner in the contest, has promised that he will lead the UK out of the EU on October 31, “do or die”.
On Sunday he refused to either confirm or deny whether he was prepared to prorogue parliament to ensure he could push through Brexit by October 31. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab called for prorogation if it was necessary to meet the deadline for leaving the EU. He was knocked out of the contest in an earlier round.
Mr Johnson told Sky News he was “not remotely” attracted to the idea of proroguing parliament, but he said: “You know MPs have got to understand it’s their responsibility to get this thing done and that was by far the best solution.