Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is ‘seriously considering’ running for the Prime Minister job on a ticket pledging a second Brexit vote, he has announced today.
He was a supporter for the Remain campaign.
Mr Hunt said the UK should not begin the process to leave the EU ‘before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election’.
He said the referendum has shown ‘that the country has rejected the free movement of people as it currently operates’, adding: ‘The people have spoken – and Parliament must listen. Britain must and will leave the EU. But we did not vote on the terms of our departure.
Under Mr Hunt’s plans, the UK would negotiate a ‘Norway plus’ option, meaning ‘full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free movement rules’.
Asked this morning if he would throw his hat in the ring for the Tory leadership, Mr Hunt said: ‘I am seriously considering it. Nominations close on Thursday lunchtime. But what I want to do now is start making an argument as to what we do next as a country.
‘This is a big, big change and, you know, if we get it right we can succeed.’
In the lead-up to the EU referendum, the health secretary blasted Leave campaigners ‘bogus claims’ that £350m of EU contributions could be spent on NHS each week – a pledge UKIP leader Nigel Farage last week said had been ‘a mistake’.
Mr Hunt’s comments come as quite the u-turn on just two months ago, in the midst of the junior doctor contract row, when he said health secretary was likely his ‘last big job in politics’.
Speaking on the eve of the first all-out strike of junior doctors in NHS history, Mr Hunt said that although health secretaries were ‘never popular’, history would be judging him on whether he took ’tough and difficult decisions that enabled the NHS to deliver high-quality care for patients’.
It also comes as Parliament was forced to call a debate last year following a petition signed by more than 220,000 members of the public calling for Mr Hunt’s resignation as health secretary.