Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested the UK should follow the example of low-tax Singapore as it forges a new position in the world after Brexit.
In what will be seen as a bid to burnish his credentials with Tory Brexiteers, Mr Hunt hailed the south-east Asian city state for “plugging into the international economic grid” on gaining its independence in 1965.
He also dismissed alternatives to Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, denouncing the option of a second referendum as a “dereliction of duty” and warning that a no-deal Brexit “could leave us poorer”.
Singapore has long been touted as a model for the UK after EU withdrawal by fervent Brexiteers such as former minister Owen Paterson, who last year wrote that Britain should adopt its “low-tax, low-spend, low-regulation” policies .
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Hunt said Singapore had transformed itself from a “tiny territory devoid of natural resources into the world’s eighth richest country”.
He added: “While the circumstances of Britain’s departure from the EU are different, there could be few better instructions for us as we make our post-Brexit future.”
While acknowledging that the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement is not “perfect”, he urged fellow MPs to back it in next month’s crunch vote.
All other options are “fraught with danger” and would “create more problems than they solve”, he warned.
A second referendum would “divide the country again right at the moment when people need to come together”, said Mr Hunt.
And warning against the no-deal option favoured by some Leave-backing MPs, he said: “No-one should be encouraging a move that could leave us poorer at the same time as gladdening the hearts of those who wish for a fractured Europe.”
Mr Hunt’s comments sparked a backlash from supporters of a second referendum, who warned the Singapore model would mean turning the UK into “a bargain basement for business”.
Best for Britain spokesman Paul Butters said: “The Foreign Secretary wants to turn this country into a low-tax haven for business. Nothing would help the elite out more, while stealing from the public purse vital funds for key services and damaging worker’s rights.
“Jeremy Hunt is frustrating the will of the people when he says things like this. No one voted for big business to rule over us.
“The public need the final say on Brexit to stop Jeremy Hunt turning Britain into a bargain basement for business.”