Brexit: May says steps will be taken for ‘no-deal’ if she loses December vote

Second Brexit referendum ‘would mean renegotiating the whole deal’

The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the Brexit deal the bloc agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May was the only one possible. Video: Parliamentlive.tv / European Parliament EPTV

 

British prime minister Theresa May has said that she would activate planning for a no-deal Brexit if her deal with the European Union is voted down in the House of Commons on December 11th.

Mrs May has presented her agreement with Brussels on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as the only and best option for her country amid fierce opposition from within her own Conservative party and beyond.

Addressing a parliamentary committee on Thursday, Mrs May said a series of “practical steps” would have to be taken if MPs were to vote down the deal on December 11th next.

“If the House votes down that deal at that point, then there will be some steps that will be necessary. Obviously we have been doing no-deal planning as a Government — we have made certain information available to businesses,” she said.

“If the House were to vote down the deal that has been agreed — given that the European Union has been clear that this is the deal that has been agreed and this is the deal that is on the table — then obviously decisions would need to be taken in relation the action that would need to be taken.

“There is then a process in the legislation for length time given for the government to come back and make a statement about the next steps, but the timetable is such that actually some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to no-deal if the parliament were to vote down the deal on December 11th,” she told politicians at the the Commons Liaison Committee.

Mrs May acknowledged that she had been unable to persuade the EU that “absolutely frictionless trade” should continue after Brexit. “We haven’t persuaded everybody in Europe yet about absolutely frictionless trade. The ambition is there in the Political Declaration to be as near frictionless as possible,” she said.

The British prime minister again rejected calls for a second referendum, warning it would mean renegotiating the whole deal with the EU. She said it would not be possible to stage a referendum before March 29th when Britain leaves the EU and that extending the Article 50 process for withdrawal would mean the deal would fall. “I think it is important for our democracy that we actually deliver on the vote that people took in 2016,” she said. “Any second referendum that would be held, if that were the case, would not be able to be held by March 29th next year. You would have to extend Article 50. “To extend Article 50, actually you are then in the business of renegotiating the deal.

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“What is clear is that any extension to Article 50 — anything like that, re-opens the negotiations — re-opens the deal. At that point, frankly, the deal can go in any direction.

“We would simply find ourselves in a period of more uncertainty, more division in this country.

“Now is the time for this country to come back together and to look at our future outside the European Union.”

Rubbish

Mrs May defended analysis by the British Treasury and the Bank of England on her Brexit deal from a leading Eurosceptic, who called them “rubbish”.

The Bank of England warned on Wednesday a no-deal Brexit could plunge Britain into its worst economic slump since the second World War, with economic growth falling 8 per cent and sterling losing a quarter of its value.

Questioning the British PM, Sir Bernard Jenkin said similar reports ahead of the EU referendum were proved to be wrong and Wednesday’s findings about the consequences of “no deal” should be ignored.

He wryly asked how “accurate” were the Treasury forecasts in May 2016, which said there would be a “collapse in growth and jobs” in the result of a

Brexit vote. Mrs May replied: “Well, I think we’ve seen from what has happened that the reaction was rather different to those forecasts.” She said Wednesday’s findings were “analysis”, not “forecasts”, but Sir Bernard said they do not take into account the decisions of the government, adding: “So, basically, they’re rubbish aren’t they?”

Mrs May hit back: “I think there is a difference in opinion about the benefits of forecasts and analysis, and so forth.”

She went on to reject a suggestion the failure to get a deal with the EU would see the UK stuck with the Northern Irish backstop plan permanently. She was responding to Andrew Murrison, the Tory MP and chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, who compared it to a “post-war pre-fab”.

“It’s sold as temporary, it’s built to last, and it’s likely to outlive us all,” he explained. However, the PM dismissed his comments, telling the committee it would only ever be a temporary solution.

She added: “Neither side thinks the backstop is a good place to be.”

She rejected the suggestion that passing her Brexit plan in Parliament without the support of the DUP will lead to the end of her confidence and supply arrangement with them, whereby the DUP props up the Tory government.

DUP leader Arlene Foster reiterated on Thursday that the party’s 10 MPs would not back the PM’s withdrawal agreement, saying it would create a “huge democratic deficit” in the North.

Speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee, Mrs May said: “Actually, the DUP have themselves said that the confidence-and-supply agreement remains in place.” - PA