By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – If Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by the U.K. parliament next week, the situation could lead to a point where Brexit will never happen, Britain’s foreign secretary said Friday.
“If this deal is rejected, ultimately what we may end up with is not a different type of Brexit, but Brexit paralysis,” Jeremy Hunt said.
“And Brexit paralysis ultimately could lead to no Brexit,” he said.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Hunt said the situation in case of rejection would be damaging for the U.K.
He said: “I’m saying this would be an incredibly damaging breach of trust and it would also be very bad for Britain’s reputation abroad, having decided to leave the EU, if we in the end for whatever reasons found we weren’t able to do.”
Underlining that the only issue causing the deadlock over the deal was the backstop mechanism, he said the deadlock could be broken if the U.K. got legally binding assurances from the EU that the backstop would be a temporary arrangement.
“Theresa May has said she doesn’t just want words. She wants something with legal force,” he added.
If no Brexit deal can be achieved, a backstop will automatically come into effect, to ensure no return to physical borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Also speaking to Sky News, Hunt said “nobody knows what will happen if the deal is rejected.”
He argued that how the MPs will vote next Tuesday is also changing, and some hardline Brexiteers are now saying they would support the deal.
A House of Commons vote on the withdrawal agreement reached by May and EU officials is set for next Tuesday.
The possibility of passage is seen as low, as the opposition parties and the government’s de facto partner the DUP have already said they would vote no.
This week the government has been defeated in two key Brexit-related votes, as around 20 Tory MPs cast votes against the government.
The U.K. is set to leave the European club on March 29, ending the country’s more than 40-year membership as the result of a landmark 2016 referendum.