The likelihood of Britain exiting the EU without a deal is “increasing by the day”, Jeremy Hunt has said.
Ahead of talks with his opposite numbers in France and Austria yesterday and today, the Foreign Secretary insisted if Brussels failed to strike a withdrawal agreement with the UK, it would cause job losses on both sides of the Channel “if Brexit goes wrong”.
Meanwhile, Theresa May will hold talks with French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday as the UK government steps up engagement with leaders on the continent.
Mr Hunt accused the European Commission of waiting for Britain “to blink” in Brexit talks as he urged Paris and Berlin to put pressure on Brussels to cut a deal.
He told the London Evening Standard: “The probability of no deal is increasing by the day until we see a change of approach from the European Commission, who have this view that they just need to wait and Britain will blink. That is just a profound misunderstanding of us as a nation.
“There is real chance of no deal by accident. Everyone is assuming no, no, no, this will never happen. Well actually, it could.
“France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel because for every job lost in the UK, there will be jobs lost in Europe as well if Brexit goes wrong.”
The Foreign Secretary said a no deal would make it harder for European businesses to access finance via the City.
He said: “There would not just be economic consequences for the UK. There would be profound economic consequences for the rest of Europe.
“Probably the City, as the financier of European business, is the central point to make here. If it became harder for European businesses to access finance, that is far from trivial.
“The City itself would find a way to thrive, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
“If it became a low-tax, low-regulation offshoot fully outside the EU, it would find a way to thrive in those circumstances. But for European businesses, the impact would be profound.”
Mr Hunt said a “breakdown in relations and trust between Britain and European countries” would be a “profound geo-strategic mistake”.
The comments came after Tory MP Marcus Fysh accused Downing Street of launching a scaremongering campaign.
He told the BBC: “Number 10 has briefed that they want to scare people witless.
“That is irresponsible, scaremongering nonsense and it should stop right now and they should get behind Brexit, which people voted for.”
The prospect of a no-deal exit has caused concern in the food industry. The director of the British Sandwich and Food To Go Association, Jim Winship, said: “If we suddenly have border controls being introduced that aren’t there now, that’s going to cause some massive problems with the fresh ingredients.
“We live in a just-in-time world. We don’t stockpile ingredients.
“It’s going to limit the amount of choice consumers have if we suddenly crash out.”
Last week Scottish secretary David Mundell said leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be preferable to breaking up the Union.
Mr Mundell said he could not accept a Brexit deal that “threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom”, including any “backstop” plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland that creates a new customs frontier in the Irish Sea.
Mr Mundell’s comments followed a stark warning from Mr Hunt on a visit to Berlin that the EU risked damaging relations with the UK for a generation unless it showed more flexibility and a “real change in approach” in negotiations.