Liam Fox says ‘no deal’ Brexit most likely as he attacks EU ‘intransigence’
European Union “intransigence” means Britain is more likely to crash out of the European Union without a deal than to reach agreement, Liam Fox has insisted.
The International Trade Secretary said Brussels’ failure to accept British proposals meant the chances of a no deal departure now sat at “60-40”, after he previous thought it was “50-50”.
Speaking on a trip to Japan, Mr Fox rounded on the “theological obsession” of EU top brass with rules rather than “economic wellbeing”.
“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us towards no deal,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.
“We have set out the basis in which a deal can happen but 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 — [and] then there is only going to be one outcome.”
He went on to accuse Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, of dismissing UK plans “because we have never done it before” and argued that “makes the chance of no deal greater”.
He added: “If they don’t like the one [deal] we have put on the table then it’s down to them to show us one that they can suggest that would be acceptable to us.”
“It’s up to the EU 27 to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies.”
Mr Fox’s comments come days after Jeremy Hunt warned his French counterparts that no deal would mean “there will be jobs lost in Europe as well” and that Britain could be heading for that outcome “by accident”.
The International Trade Secretary said it was “essential” for Britain to show crashing out of the bloc remained a “credible” option for the country however.
The paper also quotes an EU diplomat warning that neither French President Emmanuel Macron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel had shown any willingness to move on their position.
“I haven’t seen any signs of an evolution in Merkel’s position since May met her last month,” they said.
Another, meanwhile, said Theresa May’s meeting with Mr Macron last Friday in a bid to conduct talks away from Mr Barnier could go against the UK.
They said: “It would be better to let him come forward with new options. If you try and go around him, then he will have to demonstrate he is in charge.”
Meanwhile the Sunday Telegraph reports that ministers are working to free up alternative routes for lorries to enter mainland Europe, besides Dover to Calais, in the event of a no deal exit.
The paper says routes from Essex and Lincolnshire to the Netherlands and Belgium are being considered in case Paris imposes checks that hold up traffic at the major French port.
The plan comes amid warnings that emergency lorry parks could be created on the M20 and M26 motorways in Kent, which could impact on the timely movement of perishable agricultural goods and pharmaceutical products.