No-deal Brexit ‘a real possibility’, UK trade secretary says

Bigger threat to Britain than no-deal is not abiding the referendum result, Liam Fox says

UK trade secretary Liam Fox. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

UK trade secretary Liam Fox. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

The UK parliament is inching toward a plan to delay Brexit to prevent the country dropping out of the European Union without a deal, with the main opposition Labour party now increasingly likely to support the proposal.

UK trade secretary Liam Fox is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he’s telling everyone he meets that a no-deal Brexit is “a real possibility” and that they should get ready.

“We’re not telling them to ‘prepare for,’ we’re telling them to ‘prepare in case of”’ a no-deal Brexit, he told BBC Radio. In the interview, he also warned that the biggest danger facing Britain - bigger even than a no-deal Brexit - was not abiding by the result of the 2016 referendum. That would be “calamitous,” he said.

Parliamentary moves to delay the UK’s departure from the EU if there’s no deal were backed by people who wanted to “delay Brexit indefinitely,” he said. Mr Fox said the solution to the Brexit impasse was in changes to the Irish backstop, and that prime minister Theresa May was focusing her efforts on doing that.

“I believe that we can overcome the current difficulties when we discuss that issue together,” the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in an interview with the Luxembourg Times. A more ambitious future relationship could help make the Irish backstop - the key stumbling block in the UK Parliament - “less prominent,” he said.

Mr Barnier said his impression is that the backstop “is not the central issue,” and that the key debate in the UK is over what the country’s future should look like. British politicians need to find a “positive majority for something,” he said. – Bloomberg