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PM contender Hunt sets out plans to prepare Britain for no-deal Brexit

Economy Jun 30, 2019 05:30PM ET
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© Reuters. Jeremy Hunt, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party arrives at BBC studios in London

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - A Jeremy Hunt government would set aside a 6 billion pound ($7.6 billion) war chest to protect fishing and farming, and prepare an emergency budget to cut taxes under plans designed to get Britain ready for a dramatic no-deal Brexit.

Trailing rival Boris Johnson in the race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, Hunt will say on Monday that Britain needs a leader who can plan now to protect the world's fifth largest economy if it has to leave the EU without a deal.

"You cannot leave the European Union on a wing and a prayer," he will say. "Britain deserves better."

Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 and is yet to get a Withdrawal Agreement through parliament. No deal means there would be no transition period, leading to an abrupt departure that is the nightmare scenario for many businesses.

According to excerpts released by Hunt's office, the foreign secretary will seek to reassure the "sheep farmer in Shropshire" and the "fishermen in Peterhead".

"I will mitigate the impact of no deal Brexit on you and step in to help smooth those short-term difficulties. If we could do it for the bankers in the financial crisis, we can do it for our fisherman, farmers and small businesses now."

Having voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, Hunt has stepped up the rhetoric in recent days over his determination to leave without a deal if needed. He said on Sunday he would tell those businesses put at jeopardy by a disorderly exit that democracy must always come first.

Both Hunt and Johnson have said that in order to bring Brussels back to the negotiating table, the EU must believe Britain is prepared to leave the bloc without a trade deal, a prospect that would also hurt European economies.

If elected prime minister on July 23, Hunt will ramp up the country's no-deal preparations.

He would lead a task force with powers similar to Britain's national emergency committee Cobra to coordinate plans, while a new National Logistics Committee would be tasked with keeping goods flowing in and out of the country.

Emergency powers could be granted to ensure ports and airports work in a coordinated optimal way, while the Treasury will start preparations for a "No Deal Brexit Budget" that will bring in a range of options including cutting corporation tax to 12.5% and lowering business rates.

The 6 billion pound fund for the fishing and farming businesses that export to Europe will be designed to soften the blow from any trading changes such as the introduction of tariffs and delays at borders.

"Britain deserves a leader with the courage to not just tell the European Commission he will walk away," Hunt will say. "But to show them he is willing and able to do so."

Johnson, the former foreign secretary and London mayor, has also said he will take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31 with or without a deal, "do or die".

PM contender Hunt sets out plans to prepare Britain for no-deal Brexit

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