Whether it was the impact of Russia or a desire to get out a good sound bite, but the UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt compared EU to the Soviet Union and a prison. No way that could have gone down well on social media.
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.
Jeremy Hunt last week: “We need to avoid revving up the situation, making it worse by appealing to audiences on social media.”
Jeremy Hunt this week: The EU is a prison like the Soviet Union.
Way to keep things cool, calm and reasonable.
— Spar4 (@Mckendrick36) September 30, 2018
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.”
@Jeremy_Hunt Your invidious comparison of the EU & the Soviet Union is being badly received in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, not to mention elsewhere. Showing Europe respect my arse!
— Ed Larrissy (@ELarrissy) September 30, 2018
How dare you compare the EU to a prison or the Soviet Union, @Jeremy_Hunt?! You’re just covering up your incompetence at negotiating. We, the younger generation, see ourselves as part of a greater whole, and don’t want to leave. You’re an inward-looking, feckless nationalist.
— Anna Kaminski (@ACKaminski) September 30, 2018
I’m already a prisoner, trapped by this insane Brexit ideology that whereby the government makes propaganda statements about the EU being like Soviet Union. We’re free to leave just not with all the cake.
— Matthew 48% 🌈 #FBPE (@mbainesy) September 30, 2018
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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