Jeremy Hunt signals he could withhold part of £39bn EU exit bill

Jeremy Hunt has said he could refuse to pay part of Britain's £39 billion exit bill to the European Union.

The Tory leadership contender said he would "not hand over a penny more than is legally required of us" if negotiations with the EU failed.

He also revealed he would deliver a speech on Monday which will "turbocharge" plans for a no-deal exit from the bloc on October 31.

"As a businessman I always paid my bills. That being said, if we leave without a deal I will not hand over a penny more than is legally required of us," he told The Sunday Times.

"Anyone who thinks I am going to write a blank cheque to the European Union is sorely mistaken."

Mr Hunt said both he and rival Boris Johnson wish to change Britain's withdrawal agreement, but noted that he would not exit from the EU on Halloween if a deal was close.

He added: "We will know by the beginning of October if it's going to be possible to negotiate a deal that we are going to be able to get through the House of Commons. If it isn't, I'll take us out without a deal."

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Hunt had signed up former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to lead his Brexit negotiating team.

The team is also set to include Department of International Trade negotiator Crawford Falconer and ex-health minister of Canada Rona Ambrose.

"To break the impasse with the European Union we need a tough and skilled negotiator, not empty rhetoric," Mr Hunt told the paper.

18 PHOTOS
Jeremy Hunt on the campaign trail
See Gallery
Jeremy Hunt on the campaign trail
The research suggests momentum is going in Mr Hunt’s favour.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt sips a shake during a visit to Chelsmford town centre in Essex.
RETRANSMITTING AMENDING SPELLING OF NAME FROM BETTIE TO BETTY CORRECT CAPTION BELOW Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt with his 99-year-old great aunt Betty, whom he went to see during his visit to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt takes a selfie with supporters during a visit to Chelsmford town centre in Essex.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt talks with a Chelsea Pensioner during a tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, in London, accompanied by Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron (left) talks to MP Jeremy Hunt and Consultant Mark Pontin, as he visits the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, Surrey.
RETRANSMITTING AMENDING SPELLING OF NAME FROM BETTIE TO BETTY CORRECT CAPTION BELOW Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt with his 99-year-old great aunt Betty, whom he went to see during his visit to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt speaks to people during his visit to Aberdeen beach in Aberdeenshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt during his visit to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt rolling a naan bread during a visit to Imran's Balti Restaurant in Birmingham ahead of the first Tory party hustings.
File photo dated 24/08/12 of the then Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt and the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who will go head to head in the Conservative party leadership race.
CARLISLE, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: A helicopter with Conservative leadership candidate Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on board leaves following a Conservative Party leadership hustings event at Carlisle Racecourse on June 29, 2019 in Carlisle, England. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the final two MPs left in the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. The winner will be announced on July 23rd 2019 and will also take up the post of Prime Minister of the UK and Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt gave their takes on what they would do if handed the keys to Downing Street in the latest hustings in the South West.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Conservative leadership candidate and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrives at BBC Broadcasting House on June 30, 2019 in London, England.(Photo by Ollie Millington/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Jeremy Hunt talks onstage at Manchester Central Convention Complex on June 29, 2019 in Manchester, England. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the final two MPs left in the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. The winner will be announced on July 23rd 2019 and will also take up the post of Prime Minister of the UK and Northern Ireland. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Conservative MP and leadership contender Jeremy Hunt takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Manchester, north west England on June 29, 2019. - Britain's leadership contest is taking the two contenders on a month-long nationwide tour where they will each attempt to reach out to grassroots Conservatives in their bid to become prime minister. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Conservative MP and leadership contender Jeremy Hunt takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Manchester, north west England on June 29, 2019. - Britain's leadership contest is taking the two contenders on a month-long nationwide tour where they will each attempt to reach out to grassroots Conservatives in their bid to become prime minister. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Conservative MP and leadership contender Jeremy Hunt takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Manchester, north west England on June 29, 2019. - Britain's leadership contest is taking the two contenders on a month-long nationwide tour where they will each attempt to reach out to grassroots Conservatives in their bid to become prime minister. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"In Crawford Falconer you have someone who is respected as the toughest trade negotiator in the world. I'm good personal friends with Rona Ambrose. These are people who know how to get a tough deal."

Mr Harper successfully negotiated a free-trade pact with the EU, while Ms Ambrose worked on the North American Free Trade agreement after Donald's Trump election.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is assembling a Brexit team led by Sir Eddie Lister, the Telegraph reports.

PA understands chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins will quit his role shortly after the new prime minister takes up his post at the end of July.

His departure is the latest in a wave of top civil servants dealing with Brexit who have announced they will resign rather than take on the challenge of delivering Brexit within 100 days under the new leader.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS