UK government is ‘ready’ if Brexit negotiations fail, says Davis

Committee says there is no evidence of a serious contingency plan by Government

 Britain’s prime minister Theresa May has repeatedly said she would rather walk away with no Brexit deal rather than do a bad deal.  Photograph: EPA

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May has repeatedly said she would rather walk away with no Brexit deal rather than do a bad deal. Photograph: EPA

 

The government is working on contingency plans in case Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal, the Brexit Secretary has said.

David Davis insisted the country would be ready if the negotiations “go wrong” and the preparations would stop the country going off “a cliff edge”.

It comes after a powerful committee warned that failure to reach an agreement would be “very destructive” for both Britain and the EU.

Mr Davis told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show he had briefed the Cabinet on contingency plans.

“The aim is to get a good outcome and I’m confident I’ll get a good outcome.

“One of the reasons we don’t talk about the contingency plan too much is we don’t want people to think this is what we are trying to do.”

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said there was real possibility the talks could end with no deal but said it had seen no evidence of serious contingency planning by government.

It said ministers should order all Whitehall departments to draw up a “no deal plan”, warning that failure to prepare for such an outcome would be a “serious dereliction of duty”.

The prime minister has repeatedly said she would rather walk away without a settlement than agree to a “bad deal”.

Mr Davis said: “We have been planning for the contingency, all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes of the negotiations.

MPs are preparing to vote on the Brexit Bill that will allow the prime minister to trigger the start of withdrawal talks.

Mr Davis has called on them to to kick out measures introduced by peers that would give parliament a ”meaningful” vote on the divorce deal and guarantees on protections for EU nationals living in Britain when they consider them on Monday.

Opposition

Up to 10 Tory MPs could oppose the government or abstain in the vote, including former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and former Chancellor Ken Clarke, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Labour sources warned there was a 20 per cent chance of peers sending the Bill back to the Commons again if their amendments are dismissed out of hand.

Mr Davis told the programme: “It’s inconceivable to me that there wouldn’t be a vote on the outcome but the simple truth is what I don’t want to do is take a simple Bill which is designed to do nothing more than put the result of the referendum into law, as the Supreme Court told us to do.

“We are going to do that. Please don’t tie the prime minister’s hands in the process of doing that for things which we expect to attain anyway.”

Pressed on whether Parliament would get a meaningful vote, he replied: “What we can’t have is either House of parliament reversing the decision of the British people.

“They haven’t got a veto. What does it mean otherwise? People talk about a meaningful vote, what does it mean otherwise?”

If Parliament rejects the deal the country goes on to World Trade Organisation rules.

“That is why we do the contingency planning, to make sure that is not harmful. This is the reality, the decision has been made.”

‘Very distructive’

Earlier MPs have warned that failure to reach agreement in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations will be “very destructive” for both Britain and the European Union,

With British prime minister Theresa May set to trigger the start of article 50 withdrawal process within days, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has said there was real possibility the talks could end with no deal.

It said ministers should order all Whitehall departments to draw up a “no deal plan”, warning that failure to prepare for such an outcome would be a “serious dereliction of duty”.

The prime minister has repeatedly said she would rather walk away without a settlement than agree to a “bad deal”.

The committee said if all that was on the table was a demand from Brussels for a large lump sum payment with no offer of preferential trading arrangements, that might be the only option.

But given the impact on both sides, it said that it should be a “key national and EU interest” that such a situation was avoided.

“It is clear from our evidence that a complete breakdown in negotiations represents a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK,” it said.

Uncertainty and legal confusion

“Both sides would suffer economic losses and harm to their international reputations. Individuals and businesses in both the UK and EU could be subject to considerable personal uncertainty and legal confusion.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Ireland’s economy had continued to emerge from its recent crisis with “renewed strength and confidence” and, as such, was well placed to absorb the risks posed by Brexit.

“While there may be troubled waters ahead with the decision of our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, to leave the EU, I am confident that we are prepared to withstand the challenges ahead,” he said.

While the consequences of such failure were “largely predictable”, the committee said there was no sign that ministers were giving it the level of consideration it deserved.

Planning

“The possibility of ‘no deal’ is real enough to justify planning for it. This is all the more urgent if the government is serious in its assertion that it will walk away from a ‘bad’ deal,” it said.

“Last year, we concluded that the previous government’s decision not to instruct key departments to plan for a Leave vote in the EU referendum amounted to gross negligence.

“Making an equivalent mistake would constitute a serious dereliction of duty by the present administration.”

The committee said requiring departments to set out plans to mitigate the risks involved in “no deal” would also strengthen the government’s negotiating hand by lending credibility to its threat to walk away from the table.

Committee chairman Crispin Blunt said: “The government has repeatedly said that it will walk away from a ‘bad’ final deal.

“That makes preparing for ‘no deal’ all the more essential. The responsibility on the negotiators is substantial.”

PA