Keynote speech by Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

  • Monday, 1 July, 2019
    11:00 - 12:00


Since the start of this leadership campaign I’ve travelled more than 3,000 miles across the United Kingdom. I’ve been up and down the country meeting members, small businesses and actually having a lot of fun.

I’ve had fish and chips on a Scottish trawler, a balti in Birmingham and a cream tea in Devon. Jam and cream reversed.

Most of all I have enjoyed talking and debating with members of the public about the changes I want to make if I become Prime Minister.

As an entrepreneur, new line for this morning, I want to fire up our economy, cut corporation tax and scrap business rates for thousands of high street companies up and down the country.

As a reformer I want our next social mission to be to abolish illiteracy and ensure that every young person has the skills they need to get a well-paid job.

And as the son of a naval officer I want us to walk tall in the world with a decisive increase in defence spending so that Britain continues to defend the values we believe in.

But before we can make any of those changes we must do one thing above all else. We must leave the European Union.

Uncertainty is bad for business. Bad for politics. And bad for our country.

And as one of the oldest democracies in the world we show the world that in this country it is the people and not the politicians who are the boss.

As your Prime Minister I will.

But belief alone won’t cut it. Rhetoric is not enough. This is about the hard graft, focus and attention to detail.

Deal or no deal.

That means Every eventuality. Every law or statutory instrument. Every industry. And every part of the UK.

One slip, we lose our leverage, our security and possibly even Brexit itself.

So I will make us ready.

Throughout the campaign I have made it clear that my preference is for us to leave with a better deal. One that addresses the problems with the existing deal and specifically the backstop. Ensures we have a fully independent trade policy. And allows us to design our own immigration system.

I know, that with my experience of business and government I am the best placed candidate to get that deal.

I know that renegotiation will not be easy. Band with the parliamentary arithmetic we face securing a deal that can pass through parliament remains the quickest and safest way to deliver Brexit.

But what if the European Union refuses to budge.

Which means a comprehensive no deal plan.

Because to deliver Brexit, you need more than slogans. More than belief. More than positive thinking.

You cannot leave the European Union on a wing and a prayer. You need a plan.

And today I am setting out my 10 point plan;

Brexit Delivery Plan

  1. On day one of my Premiership I would order an immediate ramping up of No Deal preparations. All government departments will be expected to act on the basis that we are leaving without a deal on October 31st. All August leave will be cancelled unless I receive a signed letter from the relevant Permanent Secretary saying that preparations in his or her department are on time and on track.
  1. A ‘No Deal’ Cabinet Task Force, with similar powers to COBRA, will be set up and chaired by me. It will have three objectives:
  • Firstly, to follow up any areas where government preparations are insufficient.
  • Secondly to agree and publish financial support for industries affected by tariff changes.
  • Thirdly to approve infrastructure changes included those that may not be completed by 31 October, such as the expansion of container capacity, changes which are none the less important and should be started immediately,.
  1. A new political negotiating team will be convened with members of the ERG, the DUP, members of the One Nation Group and Welsh and Scottish Conservatives. It will be led by the Brexit Secretary and supported at an official level by Crawford Falconer. He will be supported by top experts from around the world. They will be tasked with producing an alternative exit deal, based on the alternative arrangements proposals, that can command a majority in the House of Commons and addresses, seriously and forensically, legitimate EU and Irish concerns about the Irish border and the integrity of the single market. This plan will be published by the end of August.
  1. In order to avoid a ‘take it or leave it’ approach which would be fatal to negotiations I and the Brexit Secretary will engage with European leaders and the European Commission during July and August to do our very best to come to a decision going forward.
  1. I will also establish a National Logistics Committee led by the Department for Transport to produce a plan to keep goods flowing in and out of the UK in the event of No Deal. This will include an assessment of any emergency powers required to ensure ports and airports will work in a coordinated way nationally.
  1. The Treasury will start preparations on a No Deal Brexit Budget to be delivered in the first week parliament is back in September. This will include my existing policies of cutting corporation tax cut to 12.5%, increasing the annual allowance to £5m, and taking 90% of high street businesses out of rates, which I will introduce in any circumstance.
  1. HMT will also produce a ‘No Deal Relief Programme’. This will include a £6bn fund for the fishing and farming sectors who export to Europe to ease transition out of the European Union whilst honouring our international obligations. It will also consider what relief other industries will require.
  1. We will pursue the government’s existing approach to tariffs, balancing the benefits of liberalisation for consumers with appropriate exceptions to safeguard vulnerable industries and protect the prosperity and wellbeing of communities across every part of the UK.
  1. I will provide the necessary finance to support the development of customs solutions which can help deliver our cast iron guarantee that we will never put up a hard border.
  1. Following the vote for the new plan in the House of Commons I will then allow 3 weeks for negotiations with the EU. As Prime Minister I will make a judgement on 30th September as to whether there is a realistic chance of a new deal being agreed that can pass the House of Commons.
  1. If my judgement – and the judgement of my cabinet – is that there is a deal to be done I will seek to conclude the negotiations and pass a new meaningful vote and any necessary legislation in the House of Commons before the end of October.
  2. If my judgement is that there is no deal to be done I will immediately cease all discussions with the European Union and focus the whole country’s attention on no deal preparations.

One thing I will not negotiate on is citizens’ rights. So to put the millions of EU citizens who have made the UK their home at ease, I can reconfirm to them that their rights in the UK will be protected whatever the outcome.

This plan gives us both the best chance of getting a deal but also ensures we are prepared if we do not.

If the Commission engages in good faith, and negotiations are going well, then I do not believe we should ignore the progress made, throw away that deal and stick to the 31st October as a deadline to leave, come what may. If we are close to getting a deal and it will take a few more weeks, then so be it. With a deal done, billions will be available to invest in the economic and social mission I have set out and we should welcome that.

But I want to be crystal clear with members, with my Parliamentary colleagues, and with the European Union. If there is no engagement on this deal, if it is apparent that the Commission is simply not interested in negotiating, if there is no willingness to tackle the shortcomings of the backstop and if there is no prospect of a deal being passed by parliament then there will be no kicking the can down the road and we will intensify and finalise our preparations to leave without a deal.

So from the start of my Premiership, So I will work on the basis we are leaving on 31st October with or without a deal unless the Commission changes its position.

No deal is not my preferred destination. But if a withdrawal deal is simply not on the cards then the only way to fulfil the democratic mandate of the referendum is to leave without a deal which is what we will do.

In any negotiation you need leverage, and part of ours is showing that we have a plan to ensure we succeed as a country through a no deal Exit from the EU, and we are willing to use that plan if we can’t get an acceptable deal.

So I urge any colleagues thinking of blocking a no deal Brexit to reflect that you may in fact be making it harder to get a negotiated exit, by giving the EU misplaced confidence that we will give ground, and ultimately increasing the chance that we leave without a deal.

But I also urge others to be clear with people about the facts.

There is no implementation period without a deal.

There is no recourse to GATT 24 without the agreement of the other side.  You can’t do a trade agreement with yourself!

And the chances of no deal, far from being a million to one, are real which is why we must prepare.

The point about making no deal a credible threat is that you actually have to do those preparations.

Detailed plans to help industry with any strong adjustment pressure because of the tariffs they would face.

Detailed plans to address the additional cost and hassle of bureaucracy and export processes, in particular for smaller businesses.

Detailed plans for support for the fishing and farming communities, to ensure these industries which form such an important part of our national life remain competitive.

While we are committed to open trade, we will not be naïve or careless of the legitimate defence of our industries, including those which have played such a vital role in our nation’s story.  We will develop support funds to provide direct assistance to those most in need.

We spent just over £1 trillion bailing out the banks after the financial crisis. So if we did it for the bankers then why wouldn’t we do it what is needed for our fishermen and our farmers now?

The plan I have set out today would either resolve the key issues or show how they were going to be resolved.  It would include a plan to continue to work towards a zero tariff, zero quota trade agreement with the EU, and find solutions to the specific challenges on the Irish border which respect the Belfast Agreement to which we are and will remain absolutely committed.

It would involve one of the largest fiscal and regulatory stimuli the country has seen in decades.

It would mean other spending and tax commitments would have to wait.

So if you’re the sheep farmer I met in Shropshire, or the fishermen I talked to in Peterhead, or the factory manager I met in Kidderminster – my message is simple.

I know you face uncertainty if we have to leave the EU without a deal. I hear you. And I will mitigate the impact of no deal Brexit on you, your families and your businesses . You will have to change your business model but I will guarantee you get the support you need to do so.  We will ensure that no family or community is left behind.

In the end I have always said that Britain will flourish regardless of the way we left the European Union. But we need to be realistic about the short term impact and I am prepared to step in and help smooth those difficulties.

Without the right Prime Minister and the right plan, Brexit is just a wing and a prayer.

We can do better.

Britain needs a Prime Minister for all weathers. One who will work tirelessly to get a deal but will also put in the hard yards preparing for no deal.

A Prime Minister willing to walk away. But a Prime Minister who will give negotiations a chance, and put in place a proper strategy to ensure they succeed.

Who fill fight hard for the best Brexit deal sure in the knowledge that our great country has always flourished best when trusting in the instincts of its great people.