Jeremy Hunt: Brexit paralysis ‘highly damaging’ to UK’s global image
Country’s trading partners want Brexit resolved quickly, foreign secretary says.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned today that continued indecision around Britain's exit from the EU would be "highly damaging" to the country's standing around the world.
Speaking to the BBC's Today program from Japan, where he is on an official trip, Hunt urged MPs to resolve their differences and agree on a deal, saying the U.K.'s trading partners just want Britain to make up its mind on Brexit and get on with it.
He said Japan, and other countries, "are very, very keen to protect their trading relationship with the U.K., [and] the point that I'm impressing on Japanese people I meet is our absolute determination to resolve this quickly.
"Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Britain is going to be the best place in Europe to invest ... But it's absolutely clear that Brexit paralysis, if it continues for a long time, will be highly damaging to our international standing," Hunt said, adding that trading partners worry that Britain "will become submerged in the mire of Brexit indecision" and want the impasse resolved as soon as possible.
Hunt told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in a meeting at the leader's residence in Tokyo: “We recognise that Japan has many investments employing hundreds of thousands of people in the U.K. We want strong cooperation to continue.”
The British foreign secretary said he had discussed Brexit with Abe, and with officials at automaker Toyota, "but we [Hunt and Abe] also spoke for much longer about ... global security, defending the Western way of life — things where Britain and Japan have an enormous amount in common."
"The Japanese and other countries ... want us to make up our minds as to what kind of Brexit we want to have," he said.
Hunt noted that ongoing talks between the Conservative British government and the opposition Labour Party to try to break the Brexit impasse "are detailed and more constructive than people had been expecting.
"But we don't know if they're going to work, and it may be that we have to find a way to rebuild the Conservative-DUP coalition," he said, referring to the government's parliamentary ally, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which has consistently expressed its disapproval with the government's handling of Brexit, especially the inclusion of the Irish backstop in the Brexit deal agreed with the EU, and Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to have talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to break the current Brexit deadlock.
"It's time to really put our shoulders into it and make this happen," Hunt said.