Only Vladimir Putin wants a no-deal Brexit, says Jeremy Hunt

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt

The only person who would welcome a no-deal Brexit is Russian president Vladimir Putin, new foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Mr Hunt said Mr Putin would rejoice if the UK and its allies failed to reach an agreement.

His comments strike a different tone from predecessor Boris Johnson - who said a Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms "doesn't hold terrors" - and came despite Theresa May's insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal".

The prime minister, who took her Cabinet to north-east England for an away day today, insisted that she was having "constructive" talks with EU counterparts about the blueprint agreed by her government at Chequers.

Mr Hunt, who was on a visit to Germany, warned about the dangers of the UK and EU accidentally stumbling into a "no-deal" scenario.

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If that happened "the only person rejoicing would be Putin", he said.

The last gathering of Cabinet ministers away from Downing Street was at the prime minister's Chequers retreat to thrash out a Brexit blueprint - eventually leading to the resignations of David Davis and Mr Johnson.

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Her top team of ministers met for a special session in Gateshead today, before Mrs May went to Newcastle to answer questions from workers at an engineering firm.

The prime minister told staff at Reece Group about her efforts to sell the Chequers plan to the EU.

"What I see is people focusing their minds now on the impact the future relationship will have on their economies as well as ours," she said.

"We've had some constructive responses so far. I won't say that you won't hear some negative things being said, but so far, constructive responses."

A questioner then asked if it was inevitable there would be a no-deal Brexit if Parliament rejects any agreement negotiated with the EU.

Mrs May sidestepped the question, saying: "My aim is to bring forward a deal that Parliament will support."

She claimed the UK would "do really well post-Brexit" and would be "much more outward-looking".

The prime minister said: "Many people said that immediately after the referendum, we would see a collapse in our economy. In fact our economy has continued to grow.

"Our future is what we make it."

And in a thinly veiled message to would-be rebel MPs, she said: "People chose and it's now for Parliament to deliver on people's choice.

"And I think that's important in terms of people's trust in what we as politicians do."

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