Jeremy Hunt was photographed holding notes that warned a “hard Brexit means people fleeing the UK”, as he walked into Downing Street this morning.
However the health secretary denied it was something he was worried about.
Hunt faced questions in the Commons shortly after the snap was taken and the document shows the first question he was due to be asked in bold, as well as his prepared answer.
The photograph of Hunt’s notes was tweeted by the Daily Mirror’s Associate Picture Editor.
Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael had tabled the question: “What recent discussions has he had with Home Secretary on ensuring the NHS has the workforce it needs after UK leaves the EU.”
Hunt’s answer, which he delivered word for word to Carmichael in parliament at 11.30am, read: “The 150,000 EU nationals working in our health and care services do a brilliant job and we want them to continue doing it. I am in regular talks with Cabinet colleagues to inform both domestic workforce plans and the government negotiations with the EU.”
The document also included the phrase: “Hard Brexit means people fleeing the UK.”
Hunt, who campaigned for Remain at the referendum, told MPs in the Commons that Brexit had caused “understandable concern” for EU nationals working in the NHS.
Last month statistics showed there had been a 96% drop in nurses coming from EU to work in the NHS since July 2016.
James Chapman, a former senior adviser to Brexit secretary David Davis and ex-chancellor George Osborne said he suspected Hunt had let himself be photographed on purpose.
Theresa May’s disastrous election result has strengthened the hand of Conservative ministers who favour a so-called ‘softer Brexit’ than the approach the prime minister initially pursued.
In a letter to the Financial Times today, Hunt and business secretary Greg Clark said it would be “in the interests of public health and safety” for the UK to “continue to collaborate with the EU” on medicine testing.
But Hunt used Twitter to deny the suggestion he was delivering a message.
Hunt also used his first speech after being reappointed health secretary following the election to say keeping EU health workers after Brexit was a “priority”.
And he said he had “sympathy” for calls for the pay cap on NHS nurses to be lifted.
Asked about Hunt’s papers, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “I’ve not seen such a note.
“More broadly, we have been absolutely clear that while Brexit allows us to take back control of our own borders, we want Britain to continue to be a place for the brightest and the best.”