The Foreign Secretary, who is touring Africa on a trip seen as the launch of his leadership campaign, suggested he hopes talks with Jeremy Corbyn fail if it leads to the softest possible Brexit, calling it ‘bad policy’.
Speaking to the Mail on his five-day trip, Mr Hunt said it was ‘very difficult to imagine a Rose Garden moment’ – a reference to the 2010 coalition agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems.
He said Labour were much more divided on Brexit than the Tories, raising the question of whether Jeremy Corbyn was ‘serious about delivering Brexit’.
He said: ‘There is always a danger of doing a deal with Labour that you lose more Conservative MPs than you gain Labour MPs, but I think the essential question is whether Labour are serious about delivering Brexit’.
When asked about the PM being forced out her Foreign Secretary said: ‘Just changing the leader doesn’t actually change the parliamentary arithmetic.
‘So, I think, what it would do is create delay in the process and mean that we will have another period of time through which we have Brexit paralysis.’
Mr Hunt is in Accra, Ghana, today meeting one of the country’s undercover journalists Anas Aremeyaw, who is forced to wear a disguise, and the pair posed for an extraordinary photograph together today.
Jeremy Hunt is on day two of his African tour today and warned the PM against doing a deal with Labour, where he talks to undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw in Accra, Ghana, left
The Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wife Lucia, accompanied him on a visit to a Unilever factory in Accra, and laughed as her husband helped pack products
The Foreign Secretary also presented a signed Spurs shirt to the Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia
Theresa May returns to No 10 as her spokesman was forced to deny she is now running a ‘zombie Government’
‘When you look at the splits in Labour on Brexit they are actually far greater. Labour have got Hard Remain MPs in large numbers and they’ve got MPs from Leave voting constituencies in large numbers. That is a fundamental problem for Labour of any agreement.’
Wearing shades he also posed with a deck-mounted machine gun aboard a naval vessel in Senegal yesterday
‘By all accounts, whilst they have been more detailed and productive than we thought and expected, it’s still going to be very difficult to imagine a Rose Garden moment.’
Mr Hunt also rejected the idea of a customs union – Labour’s central demand for the talks, calling it ‘bad policy’
‘Personally I think a customs union is bad policy. I haven’t seen any experts who think the customs union which is on offer from the EU would be in any way sustainable for an economy the size of Britain.
‘The idea that the EU would be able to drive a hard bargain on Scotch Whisky tariffs for example outside the EU is highly unlikely.’
Mr Hunt said a Tory leadership contest was not a ‘silver bullet’ to solve Brexit.
‘It’s tempting to look at this through the prism of a Tory leadership contest but it’s dangerous to think there’s any silver bullet just from changing the occupant of No10.
‘The process of a Tory leadership election would inevitably involve candidates setting out their red lines which might itself mean finding a compromise to get Brexit over the line becomes harder.
‘That’s why my preference would be to get this deal or a version of this deal over the line.’
Mr Hunt took the wheel during a demonstration of marine skills of Dakar in Senegal on the second day of a six-day trip to Africa
Senior Labour MPs have said for the first time since cross-party talks began that Mrs May’s ‘red lines’ may have started to shift.
Mr Hunt is being accompanied in Africa by his wife Lucia
These entrenched positions surround a closer customs union with the EU after Brexit.
It was feared the negotiations would finish without and breakthrough next week after local elections on Thursday, but it is now thought the discussions will continue, according to the Times.
A Labour source told the newspaper: ‘There wasn’t complete movement but there was movement.’
The talks are expected to run into next week after several hours of discussions led by Mrs May’s deputy, David Lidington, and John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor.
Yesterday Jeremy Hunt donned a battle helmet as he took the wheel of a Royal Marines boat in West Africa.
The Foreign Secretary, one of the front runners in the race to replace Theresa May, took to the water with British forces and their Senegalese counterparts off the capital, Dakar.
Politicians love to look tough when there is an election coming and Mr Hunt also posed with a machine gun on the second day of a six-day trip to Africa with the goal of boosting trade and diplomatic links as the UK seeks post-Brexit allies.
Wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and tan chino trousers he took the wheel of the rigid inflatable boat (RIB) during the demonstration by the marines.
The week-long trip, on which he is being accompanied by his wife Lucia, takes in five countries – Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya.
On what is his first trip to Africa as Foreign Secretary, Mr Hunt will seek to increase the UK’s presence in French-speaking parts of the continent where it has previously played a more minor role.
With the UK set to leave the European Union, Mr Hunt said he wanted to work ‘within and alongside’ African nations to tackle international threats and forge new opportunities.
As part of the drive to expand British influence, the UK is funding a new almost £4 million English language programme in French and Portuguese-speaking countries aimed at reaching 7.5 million young people a year.
The English Connects programme will be launched by Mr Hunt in Senegal’s capital Dakar.