UK Foreign Secretary likens EU to both Soviet Union and a prison, brings down a twitterstorm
Trying to warn Brussels against rejecting UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, Hunt shot for a one-two punch combo: virtually calling the EU a "prison" for member states, and comparing it to the Soviet Union at the same time.
"The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving,” Hunt told the Tory conference in Birmingham, referring to the long-standing deadlock in the UK's negotiations with the EU over the Brexit deal.
"The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish, it will grow – and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape,” he added. Hunt himself voted ‘Remain’ back in 2016, but then said he changed his mind because of the “arrogance” Brussels displayed during the Brexit negotiations that followed the referendum.
His words did not sit well with the public. Twitter exploded with critical comments as people called his parallels “disgusting” and said that Hunt should apologize to the people of Eastern Europe, who lived in countries of the then Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.
Users denounced his remarks as “invidious” and said that was just a way to cover his own “incompetence” at the Brexit negotiations. Others argued that it is Brexit that actually left people “trapped.”
Hunt, meanwhile, also warned the EU that, in case it rejects “the hand of friendship offered by our Prime Minister, you turn your back on the partnership that has given Europe more security, more freedom and more opportunities than ever in history.” That would be a “wholly avoidable tragedy for Europe,” he added.
His words come just days before another Brexit summit in Brussels. Theresa May demanded that the EU bring a new set of proposals to the table to break the “impasse” in the negotiations. Earlier, the EU rejected the Chequers plan presented by May herself. The EU Council President Donald Tusk said that it "risks undermining the single market.”
However, May is having to fight on two fronts, pushing her Brexit plan both in Brussels and within her party's own ranks at home. Earlier on Sunday, ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called May’s Chequers plan “deranged.”
Tackling the criticism of her plan on the first day of the conference, May warned her Chequers detractors to “stop playing politics” and urged Tory members to “come together” to back the Brexit plan.
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