If Brexit goes wrong it would be a disaster, not just for the U.K., but for the whole of Europe, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Wednesday.
Hunt renewed his government’s demand for a “simple but important change” to the Brexit agreement at a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
"The current text uses the word ‘temporary’ to describe the backstop, so what we need to do is put some flesh on the bone of what temporary actually means,” he said.
Hunt argued that such a change to the contentious Irish backstop arrangements would help Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to get the parliamentary support for the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement.
May suffered an overwhelming defeat over her Brexit deal last month, with a majority of lawmakers rejecting the draft EU withdrawal agreement, fearing backstop arrangements for the Irish border could force the U.K. to follow EU rules for an indefinite time.
The EU insisted on the backstop arrangement to prevent a "hard border” with EU member Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland, after the Brexit.
According the draft agreement, if the EU and UK will not be able to finalize negotiations on their future relationship by Dec. 31 2020, backstop arrangements will apply, and Ireland and Northern Ireland will remain part of the same EU-U.K. customs territory.
For his part, Maas highlighted that all EU members were for an orderly exit, and seeking ways to avoid a hard-Brexit.
“Everybody seems to be working hard to do so. But we seem to have not been able to find the right path. And the time is of the essence,” he said.
“I very much welcome the fact that the discussions are becoming more concrete,” he added.
The U.K. is set to leave the bloc end of March as a result of a 2016 referendum where voters decided to leave the union after more than 40 years of membership.