Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says UK-France bond 'bigger than Brexit'

Alexandra Rogers
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British Foreign Secretary Hunt Meets With German Counterpart Maas In Berlin
Hunt is one minister that is pushing for Theresa May to publish legal advice she has received from the attorney general (Source: Getty)

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said Britain and France will continue to enjoy "the bond of friendship" for decades after the UK leaves the European next March.

Speaking in Paris, Hunt, who was made foreign secretary after a long stint as the health secretary, praised the relationship between the UK and France as "one of competition, co-operation, similarity and difference" and one that was "bigger than Brexit".

This week has been marked by a number of meetings at which Theresa May has attempted to achieve Cabinet unity over her Brexit strategy.

The issue of the Irish border has proven to be the main stumbling block in the negotiations, with the UK and EU divided over the issue of a backstop, an arrangement designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The EU has suggested a backstop that would keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs union and large parts of the single market, but this has been rejected by the Prime Minister on the grounds it undermines the constitutional integrity of the UK.

She has instead proposed a backstop that would see the whole of the UK inside the EU customs union for a limited time after 2020, but Brexiters are adamant that there must a mechanism that would allow the UK to leave.

There is division over that mechanism too, with Brexiters pushing for a clause that would allow the UK to leave unilaterally without the consent of the EU, which has been flatly rejected by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

Amid the tussling over the border, May has come under increasing pressure to publish the legal advice she has received from attorney general Geoffrey Cox.

This morning former Brexit secretary David Davis told the BBC that MPs needed to see the "complete legal advice, not a summary" before voting on the deal, the "biggest decision the cabinet and parliament will have to make".

"Are we going to have to wait until the Irish government says it's OK to leave? If so, that's not acceptable," he said.

"Are we going to have to wait until it's convenient for the [European] commission to say when we leave? If so, it's not acceptable," he added.

Davis also predicted that the Prime Minister will lose the Commons vote on her Brexit deal, which he said might encourage the two sides to work out a "better deal". Davis resigned in the summer in protest at the so-called Chequers plan, in which May proposed that the UK would remain aligned with the EU on goods but not services.