Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today burnishes his ‘born again Brexiteer’ credentials by calling for the UK to emulate the ultra-low tax example of Singapore in our post-EU future.
Mr Hunt – who is understood to be Theresa May’s preferred choice as successor when she leaves Downing Street – uses an article in today’s Mail on Sunday to pay tribute to the ‘dynamic’ Asian country beloved by pro-Brexit MPs, while dismissing the option of a second referendum and rowing back on remarks which suggested he was relaxed about a No Deal Brexit.
His confident vision of the UK’s future comes as his main Cabinet rival for No 10, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, is perceived to have been damaged by his handling of the Channel migrant crisis.
Eastern focus: Jeremy Hunt married his Chinese wife Lucia Guo in 2009
And it comes as allies of the Prime Minister say that they are increasingly confident that Brussels can be persuaded to shift position sufficiently on the controversial Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ to win the delayed Commons vote on her Brexit deal.
Mr Hunt, who is being increasingly eyed by Brexiteer Tory MPs as a compromise leadership candidate, hails Singapore – which has slashed burdensome taxes and red tape – for plugging into ‘the international economic grid’ after becoming independent in 1965.
Mr Hunt writes: ‘There could be few better instructions for us as we make our post-Brexit future’.
Singapore is frequently cited by Brexiteers as an example of how the UK could flourish once free of the constraints of Brussels.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argues that following the Singapore example would turn Britain into a ‘bargain basement tax haven’.
Mr Hunt also uses the article to set out his opposition to a second referendum on Brexit – which, as a Remain voter, he had briefly supported in the wake of the 2016 vote – and to clarify recent remarks in which he had appeared to be relaxed about the prospect of ‘No Deal’.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today burnishes his ‘born again Brexiteer’ credentials by calling for the UK to emulate the ultra-low tax example of Singapore (pictured) in our post-EU future
He says: ‘It’s true that no negotiation ever produced an outcome that was perfect for all sides and this deal is no different. So it is always alluring to reach for alternatives. But in this case other options are fraught with danger.
Hunt’s love affair with the far east
- After studying at Oxford, spent two years in Japan learning the language to impress his first girlfriend, who was Japanese.
- Became fluent, only for her to say ‘she didn’t want to see me’.
- But he understands the 3,000 characters necessary to read a Japanese newspaper like the one reporting the Brexit result below.
- Tried in vain to start a business exporting marmalade to Japan.
- Then launched guides for Japanese students in England, leading to the Hotcourses business which went on to make him millions.
- In 2009 married Lucia Guo.
- On a trip to China this year, mistakenly referred to his Chinese wife as being Japanese.
Mr Hunt understands the 3,000 characters necessary to read a Japanese newspaper like this one reporting the Brexit result
‘A quick fix like a second referendum? A simple solution like No Deal? An easy option like Parliament taking control? The truth is all these ideas create more problems than they solve. Politicians like Tony Blair might like the idea of a second referendum. It’s the equivalent of saying to the public: you created the problem by voting to leave, now over to you to fix it.’
Mr Hunt adds: ‘Walking away without a deal would present risks to business and jobs even if you believe in the end we would find a way through it to survive and prosper. No one should be encouraging a move that could leave us poorer at the same time as gladdening the hearts of those who wish for a fractured Europe’.
Mr Hunt’s intervention comes as allies of the Prime Minister are increasingly confident that Mrs May will win round her rebels to push her deal through the House of Commons. Downing Street insiders believe the EU is on the brink of agreeing a new ‘side treaty’ which would include a so-called ‘Stormont Lock’, allowing a resurrected Northern Irish assembly to block EU rules in the province.
If Mrs May’s Ulster allies agree, No 10 assumes Tory Brexiteer hard-liners would then fall in line.
The additional document would also include a legally binding declaration, making the backstop time limited and setting out how it could be collapsed under international treaty law.
No 10 also hopes Michael Gove will lead attempts to ‘sell’ the deal in the run-up to the crucial vote, which will take place in the week starting January 14. Mr Gove is said to believe much of the criticism of Mrs May’s deal has been over ‘conflating it’ with her loathed Chequers plan – which was rejected by the EU – and that the differences must be set out clearly.
MPs suspect Mrs May is also planning to pull a ‘rabbit’ from her hat by ‘pivoting’ towards a loose Canada-style free trade deal for the UK’s future relationship with Brussels. Professor Catherine Barnard of the UK In A Changing Europe group told the Commons two weeks ago that she had ‘been reliably told that there was a much longer version’ of the political declaration being circulated in Brussels that stretched to about ‘100 pages.’
Giving evidence to MPs she added: ‘My sense is that a sort of Canada-type document is what we are heading towards.’
There will also be a concerted effort to target wavering Labour MPs. One strategist said: ‘The message will be very simple: the only way to avoid No Deal is to back the deal.’
Mr Hunt’s backing for the Singapore model echoes calls made by Boris Johnson and Mr Gove last year in their leaked letter to Mrs May setting out their demands for Brexit.
In the letter, revealed in The Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson and Mr Gove said: ‘We may choose to remain identical to the EU – or we may embrace a vision more aligned with pro-competitive regulation. Other countries must know this choice is in our hands – and they must know it on day one,’ adding: ‘Our tax system is hugely complex after the long years of Labour government. There will be huge savings from reducing the burden of compliance.’
…as National Trust cashes in on White Cliff-edge Brexit!
Pay per view: TV crews face a charge to film the famous chalk coastline near Dover
They are a symbol of Britain’s enduring freedom – but for the National Trust, the famous White Cliffs of Dover are also becoming a major cash cow in the run-up to Brexit.
The conservation charity tasked with protecting the country’s most beloved landmarks has told broadcasters that they have to pay to point their cameras at the 350ft cliff face as our historic departure from the EU approaches.
Television news crews hoping to use the iconic chalk vista in their Brexit coverage have been told to cough up £200 every time they want to film the cliffs, leaving producers fuming.
BBC sources told The Mail on Sunday that National Trust media handlers sent them a stern reminder that they must pay following an increase in requests to film at the Kent site ahead of exit day on March 29.
The Trust’s website boasts that the eight-mile coastline around the Port of Dover, officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is ‘an instantly recognisable icon of Britain’ and the perfect film location ‘to tell the story of our nation’.
Television industry insiders have expressed surprise that the levy has been extended to TV news rather than big-budget motion pictures and documentaries. One BBC journalist said: ‘They have suddenly got very militant about this. They must be making a fortune.’
Breaking news stories, such as the current migrant boat crisis, are exempt from what TV producers are dubbing the ‘Brexit Tax’ (stock image)
Breaking news stories, such as the current migrant boat crisis, are exempt from what TV producers are dubbing the ‘Brexit Tax’.
The National Trust purchased their first stretch of the cliffs – which served as an emblem of Britain’s defiance of the Nazis in the Second World War – in 1968.
In 1999 it built a visitors’ centre, and the Trust now charges members of the public £4 to park a car at the site.
Last year it raised more than £1 million to acquire a further 7.5 million square feet of coastline by the cliffs amid fears that the land could be snapped up by property developers.
The fundraising push was spearheaded by Dame Vera Lynn, 101, who sang the wartime anthem (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover. Nicknamed the Forces Sweetheart, Dame Vera thanked the donors for helping to save the ‘national icon’.
Last night the National Trust defended its decision to charge all TV crews, saying that all the money raised would be reinvested at the site.
A spokesman insisted the charge was ‘due to the inevitable additional staff time these requests take to accommodate’.
He added: ‘This has been National Trust policy for seven years, is not location-specific and has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.’