British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a contender to replace Theresa May as prime minister, yesterday said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had indicated the EU was willing to renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal.
Hunt, one of nearly a dozen Conservatives vying to succeed May after she resigned as party leader Friday, said he spoke with Merkel at this week’s D-Day commemorations and was convinced changing May’s agreement was possible.
“She said that of course with a new British prime minister we would want to look at any solutions you have,” he told Sky News.
“I’m absolutely clear that if we take the right approach to this, the Europeans would be willing to negotiate on the package.”
Hunt did not specify if he was referring to the legally-binding withdrawal agreement which the EU has repeatedly insisted cannot be re-opened, or to the accompanying political declaration on future relations.
Brussels has said the declaration could be revisited if Britain makes a substantive change in its positions, for example on a customs union or access to the single market.
May agreed the package with the EU last year but saw it rejected three times by British lawmakers, forcing her to delay Brexit twice -- the latest extension being to October 31.
A controversial provision in the agreement for the Irish border, known as the backstop, has proved the key stumbling block. It would prevent the return of border checks between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the sides fail to agree a free trade pact after an initial transition period.
Hunt claimed Merkel had signalled EU leaders may now be open to a technological solution to the thorny issue -- something Brussels has previously ruled out as unrealistic.