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Leaving EU without a deal not in anybody's interest - Liam Fox

Crashing out of the European Union without a Brexit deal would be "bad" for Britain, the International Trade Secretary has admitted.

Liam Fox said it was "not in anybody's interest" for divorce talks, which could begin in days, to end in failure.

But his comments were at odds with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who insisted leaving with no deal would not be "as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend".

Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted the Government was making contingency plans for such an outcome after MPs warned that failure to put a back-up strategy in place would be a "serious dereliction of duty".

Former minister Anna Soubry, meanwhile, claimed talks could collapse within six months and leave Britain falling off a cliff-edge.

Mr Fox told Sky News' Ridge On Sunday that "not having a deal of course would be bad".

But it's not just bad for the UK, it's bad for Europe as a whole," he said.

The Cabinet minister warned that trade barriers would damage the EU more than the UK.

"That's not in anybody's interest, which is why I understand we need to plan for no deal but I think it's unlikely to happen because economic reality will get in the way," he added.

"We accept that we are not staying in the single market and there is a price to be paid for not staying in the single market. It's a political decision."

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said there was real possibility the talks could end with no deal and warned that would be "very destructive" for both Britain and the EU.

Mr Davis insisted, however, the country would be ready if the negotiations "go wrong" and said the preparations would stop the country falling off "a cliff edge".

He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "We have been planning for the contingency, all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes of the negotiations.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said she would rather walk away without a settlement than agree to a "bad deal".

Mr Johnson said it is "excessively pessimistic" of the select committee to suggest there is a real possibility Britain will tumble out of the EU with no deal and revert to World Trade Organisation rules.

But he said that if this did happen it would not be "apocalyptic" and the UK would continue to thrive.

He told ITV's Peston On Sunday: "I think that's excessively pessimistic of that otherwise distinguished committee. I think we've got every prospect of doing a very good deal between now and the end of the negotiating period in 2019."

He insisted a deal is a "very likely" outcome, stressing that the UK has a "robust" economy and a confident negotiating team.

"But the third thing, which I don't think people recognise, is that our partners and friends around the EU desperately want this thing to work. They don't want more misery, they don't want to fall out with the UK."

Ms Soubry, a leading Remain campaigner, claimed some ministers were preparing for talks to fail within months.

She told BBC One's Sunday Politics: "I think the big fear, certainly the fear I have, is that we will be crashing out in six months."

She added: "The Government is putting in place basically scaffolding at the bottom of the cliff to break our fall when we come to fall off that cliff and I think many in government are actually preparing not for a two-year process but six to nine months, off the cliff, out we go."

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.

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% chance of peers sending the Bill back to the Commons again if their amendments are dismissed out of hand.

Mr Davis told the programme: " 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?"


From Belfast Telegraph