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Tory contender Hunt claims Angela Merkel told him EU is willing to renegotiate Brexit deal

The Irish government has repeatedly stated the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened.

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt
Image: David Mirzoeff/PA Images

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt has said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated the EU would be willing to renegotiate the UK’s Brexit deal.

Hunt has thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, and told Sky News today that he’d spoken with Merkel at this week’s D-Day commemorations. 

“She said that of course with a new British prime minister we would want to look at any solutions you have,” he said.

I’m absolutely clear that if we take the right approach to this, the Europeans would be willing to negotiate on the package.

Hunt didn’t specify if he was referring to the legally-binding withdrawal agreement that the Irish government and the EU have repeatedly said can’t be re-opened, or the accompanying political declaration on future relations.

Brussels has said the declaration could be revisited if Britain makes a substantive change in its positions, for example on a customs union or access to the single market.

May agreed the package with the EU last year but saw it rejected three times by MPs in the House of Commons, forcing her to delay Brexit twice – the latest extension being to 31 October.

Those vying to succeed May have all been positioning their stances on Brexit and Hunt’s intervention here comes alongside rival Sajid Javid’s claim that Britain should pay Ireland half a billion pounds to break the deadlock on the Northern Irish backstop.

Hunt claimed Merkel had signalled EU leaders may now be open to a technological solution to the thorny issue – something that Ireland and the EU have previously ruled out as unrealistic. 

“She said to me Germany doesn’t have that border with the Republic of Ireland, you do… so you need to come up with the solution,” he said of their conversation.

“So it’s going to be a solution that’s based around some technologies — what the Germans call intelligent border(s). I think that’s doable.”

Jockeying for position

Front-runner to become the next Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, and he said in an interview with the Sunday Times today he would refuse to pay Britain’s £39 billion divorce bill until the EU agrees better withdrawal terms.

The ex-London mayor also signalled he would scrap the much-despised backstop and try to settle the border issue once London and Brussels were negotiating their future relationship.

“Our friends and partners need to understand that the money is going to be retained until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward,” he said.

“In getting a good deal, money is a great solvent and a great lubricant,” Johnson added.

Faring less well in the leadership battle is Michael Gove, who’s faced a backlash since admitting to using cocaine “on several occasions at social events” two decades ago. 

“I do have a profound sense of regret about it all and I am very, very aware of the damage that drugs do,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

The former justice minister has faced accusations of hypocrisy for having continually supported tough drug laws, while a former senior drug adviser to the government warned the admission could see him barred from entering the United States under its strict anti-drugs immigration laws.

With reporting from AFP

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Sean Murray

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