Tensions in Theresa Mays Cabinet have been laid bare after Jeremy Hunt said Britain would flourish and prosper in the event of a no deal Brexit – despite warnings of the opposite from other MPs.
The Foreign Secretary has also admitted he wants a crack at succeeding Theresa May after the Prime Minister takes the country through what he described as this challenging next few months.
She has already made it clear she will step down as PM before the scheduled 2022 general election, an announcement she made to convince her backbench MPs not to topple her in a confidence vote last week.
Mr Hunts upbeat remarks on a no deal scenario – saying the UK had faced much bigger challenges in its history – put him at odds with Cabinet colleagues like Justice Secretary David Gauke and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who have warned about the impact of failing to secure an agreement.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: Ive always thought that even in a no-deal situation this is a great country, well find a way to flourish and prosper. Weve faced much bigger challenges in our history.
But we shouldnt pretend that there wouldnt be disruption, there wouldnt be risk, and there wouldnt be impact and thats why as a responsible Government we have to make all the preparations necessary.
Asked if he would like to become PM, Mr Hunt said: I think every MP has a corner of their heart that says they would like to have a crack at the top job. Im no different.
But I think the first thing is to get us through this challenging next few months and I passionately believe Theresa May is the right person to do that.
Mr Gauke has threatened to quit if the PM pursued no deal, telling the Financial Times: I couldnt support a conscious decision to crash out at the end of March and I dont think there are many who could.
He said it was sensible to draw up contingency plans in case no deal is reached, but warned fantasy options will cause real pain for British people.
While Ms Rudd called on MPs to ignore siren voices calling us to the rocks of no deal.
She has called for a cross party consensus on Brexit because it is in danger of getting stuck.
It follows a particularly bruising week for the PM, as her appeals for the EU to be more flexible on backstop proposals for the Irish border were largely rebuffed at a summit of European leaders.
The backstop, aimed at preventing the return of a hard border in Ireland, would see the UK remain under EU customs rules if no wider trade agreement had been struck by the end of an implementation period.
Critics are said to be concerned about the temporary nature of the backstop.