U.K. Trade Secretary Dismisses 'Nightmare' of No-Deal Brexit

  • Fox says without an accord, Britain can rely on WTO rules
  • British business groups demand deal ‘as soon as possible’

U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said leaving the European Union without a deal for future business isn’t a “nightmare scenario” for Britain.

Fox said lacking a deal would subject Britain to the commercial terms and conditions set by the World Trade Organization.

Liam Fox

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

“If we have no deal and we trade on current WTO terms, that’s the basis that, not only that Britain trades with countries like the United States, but that the EU trades with the rest of world in most circumstances,” Fox said in an ITV interview on Sunday. “So it’s not exactly a nightmare scenario. I’m not scared of that, but I would prefer to have a deal, because it would bring greater certainty.”

Even with nascent signs of progress during Prime Minister Theresa May’s talks in Brussels last week, departing without an agreement remains a possibility. Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Sunday the U.K. is heading for such an outcome. Fox’s comments cap a week in which members of May’s cabinet publicly disagreed about whether the nation really will walk away from Brexit negotiations or not.

The Times reported last week that Brexit Secretary David Davis will give the U.K. Cabinet an upbeat assessment of a no-deal Brexit. In an interview on Sunday, Thornberry warned that lacking a deal is a “serious threat,” and blamed May’s weakness.

‘Serious Threat’

May “doesn’t have the sense or the authority to be able to control her backbenchers, let alone her cabinet,” she said in a BBC interview. “I think we are heading for no deal and I think that is a serious threat to Britain and it is not in Britain’s interest for it to happen. We will stop it.’’

Meanwhile, major business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry and British Chambers of Commerce, wrote to Davis saying that an “agreement is needed as soon as possible,” Sky News reported on Sunday, citing a letter it obtained. Some companies will make “serious decisions” impacting on investments early next year, Sky reported, citing the letter. The CBI last month wrote seeking urgent action on citizen rights after Brexit.

Labour party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Times that the party could unite with rebels in May’s Conservative Party as a way to force her to give lawmakers a vote on the final deal to leave the European Union.

Starmer demanded May accept six changes to the so-called repeal bill, including giving parliament the final say on whether to approve it and adding a two-year implementation period following Brexit during which Britain would stay in the single market and customs union.

“A bad Brexit is not in the national interests,” Labour health spokesman Jon Ashworth said in an interview with Sky TV on Sunday. “We are in the business of improving the prosperity of families, not making families worse off and if the outcome of this government’s negotiations is a deal which means the British economy suffers, that’s not something we’re going to accept, we want to strengthen the British economy.”

— With assistance by Charlotte Ryan

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