Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Hunt will pursue 'technology-led solution' to Irish border if he becomes PM

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images)
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images)

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has said that he will pursue a "technology-led solution" to the Irish border in Brexit negotiations if he becomes Prime Minister.

The Foreign Secretary is currently facing off with favourite Boris Johnson in the quest for Number 10.

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC Mr Hunt said that he would pursue a Brexit deal that doesn't involve the Irish border backstop in an attempt to find a solution before October 31.

The controversial backstop plan aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, but opponents have claimed it could keep the UK aligned with the EU indefinitely and create a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The backstop issue effectively ended Theresa May's hopes of getting her Brexit deal through Parliament and its failure hastened her departure as Prime Minister.

Mr Hunt said that he never believed that a deal involving the backstop was "the right approach" despite serving in Mrs May's cabinet.

"What I'm talking about is a deal that doesn't involve the backstop as it's constituted, so it would be different," he said.

The former Health Secretary said that he would pursue a "technology-led solution" to the Irish border issue.

Last month the EU's Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said they would be willing to consider backstop alternatives including "technology, drones and invisible borders", but that such measures did not currently exist.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that without demonstrations on how a technological solution would work the Irish Government would not be willing to move on the backstop.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Mr Hunt's rival Boris Johnson has said that he would leave the EU "deal or no deal" on October 31 and asked the Foreign Secretary to make a similar commitment.

While he said he was prepared to leave without a deal, Mr Hunt said that he would not pursue a no-deal Brexit if there was "a prospect of a better deal" on the horizon.

Mr Hunt said that he believed the new government would know "well before October 31" if a new deal could be negotiated, and he would decide based on those discussions whether to pursue a deal or no deal.

He also said that the next PM needed to be someone who is "trustworthy" so that they could deliver Brexit and avoid a general election.

"If you choose someone where there is no trust, there's going to be no negotiation, no deal and quite possibly a general election - which can mean we have no Brexit either," Mr Hunt said.

The Foreign Secretary denied implying his rival Boris Johnson was untrustworthy, saying he would "never" make those comments about a colleague.

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