Britain likely to leave EU without a deal, says Minister Fox

LONDON • Britain is now likely to leave the European Union (EU) without a deal due to the “intransigence” of the EU, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (picture) told the Sunday Times.

The pro-Brexit minister said that the chances of a no-deal Brexit were now “60-40”, laying the blame on EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us towards no deal,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“If the EU decides that the theological obsession of the unelected is to take priority over the economic wellbeing of the people of Europe, then it’s a bureaucrats’ Brexit — not a people’s Brexit — then there is only going to be one outcome.”

He said Barnier had rejected Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May’s latest plan, agreed by her Cabinet, on the grounds that “we have never done it before”.

It was therefore up to the EU to “show us one that they can suggest that would be acceptable to us”, said Fox. “It’s up to the EU27 (EU minus the UK) to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies.”

May met with French President Emmanuel Macron on the Mediterranean coast last Friday to lobby for her Brexit plan, which has divided her government and so far failed to win over EU negotiators.

The PM has just a few months before an agreement on Britain’s divorce from the EU — set for March 29, 2019 — must be forged in principle ahead of a EU summit in midOctober.

Meanwhile, Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney warned last Friday that the possibility of a no-deal Brexit was “uncomfortably high” and “highly undesirable”, but still “unlikely”, compared to other outcomes.

“The possibility of a no-deal is uncomfortably high at this point,” Carney told BBC radio.

BoE’s Carney, who is due to step down next year after Britain leaves the EU as scheduled in March, said no-deal was “a relatively unlikely possibility, but it is a possibility”. Brexit negotiations are “entering a critical phase”, he said.

Carney said Britain’s financial system would in any case be able to “withstand the shock” as banks have increased capital and liquidity and contingency plans have already been put in place.

A no-deal Brexit would “mean disruption to trade as we know it and as a consequence of that a disruption to a level of economic activity, higher prices for a period of time”.—AFP