Jeremy Hunt has warned the Conservative Party if it gets Brexit “wrong” it will lose power to “Marxist” Jeremy Corbyn.
The foreign secretary said the government had to “deal with the worst fears” of the 48% of voters who wanted to remain in the EU at the same time as making sure the UK leaves on March 29, 2019.
“In 100 days time we will be able to answer a very simple test to the country which is whether the Conservative Party is a party that keeps its promises. Because many of our voters voted for us at the last election trusting us to deliver Brexit,” he told party activists in Westminster on Wednesday evening.
Hunt, who campaigned for Remain in 2016 but has said he would now vote Leave, said the government “misunderstood” what would happen in the Brexit talks.
“We always thought when Brexit negotiations happened that lots of countries would break cover and support Britain in these negotiations and it hasn’t happened - the EU27 has stayed together,” he said.
With time running out for the government and parliament to agree what sort of Brexit the UK will have, Cabinet ministers have been publicly pushing for different approaches should Theresa May’s deal be voted down.
Andrea Leadsom has insisted a “managed no-deal” Brexit is possible. Meanwhile, Amber Rudd suggested there was a “plausible argument” for a second referendum should MPs remain deadlocked.
Speaking at a reception hosted by the liberal Tory Bright Blue think-tank last night, Hunt warned “the stakes at this moment are incredibly high”.
“The most dangerous thing for the fabric of our democracy would be if we didn’t leave the EU on March 29,” he said.
“People have started being tempted again by the extremes and if we get tempted down those extreme routes the truth is we won’t just divide the party, we will divide the country,” he said.
“It seems to me what is happening in British politics is that we’ve got a middle ground, which is broadly a version of Theresa May’s deal with some improvements to the backstop, which I know worry a lot of people, that is the middle ground of British politics that can bring together.
“If we get this wrong it won’t just be disastrous for the Conservative Party but it would bequeath the country with a Marxist government for the fist time in our history and that would be something I don’t think any of our supporters in the country would forgive us for.
“We need to deal with the worst fears of the 48% who worry that Brexit could be a moment when we pull up the drawbridge, shut ourselves off from the rest of the world and become a closed country.
“That is not my vision. It’s not Theresa May’s vision. It’s not the vision of anyone in the country. We need to reassure them that yes we are leaving the legal structures of the EU, but we are going to be an outward looking, positive, friendly country that is open and welcoming to the best of talent from all over the world as we always have been throughout our history.”