British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the U.K. will not “blink” in Brexit negotiations, as he warned the European Union it risks forcing the country to crash out of the bloc with no deal.
On his first trip to Berlin since he replaced Boris Johnson earlier this month, Hunt appealed for more flexibility from his European counterparts as time for talks runs out. He said failure to strike a deal would poison British attitudes to Europe for a generation and cause major economic challenges for the U.K.
“When it comes to Brexit, there is now a very real risk of a Brexit no-deal by accident,” Hunt said at a press conference on Monday alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “And this is because, I think that many people in the EU are thinking that they just have to wait long enough and Britain will blink, and that’s not going to happen.”
Hunt’s visit marks the start of a week of intense diplomatic efforts by the U.K. government in an attempt to step up the pace of negotiations. Talks in Brussels have stalled as EU negotiators awaited a clear plan from the U.K. for its future relationship with the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May published her compromise proposals on July 12 but has been struggling to win support for them among members of her own government.
Hunt said he wanted the U.K. and Germany to remain “best friends” after Brexit but warned that British relations with the continent will inevitably suffer if the EU’s negotiators do not change their attitude.
“Without a real change in approach from the EU negotiators, we do now face the real risk of a no-deal by accident and that would be incredibly challenging economically,” he said. “My real concern is that it will change British public attitudes to Europe for a generation – and it will lead to a fissure to relations which would be highly damaging for that great partnership that we’ve had for so many years.”
Speaking alongside Hunt, Maas said “we don’t want a disorderly Brexit; we want an agreement.”