Liam Fox says '50-50' chance Brexit won't happen if MPs vote down Theresa May's deal
The chances of Britain leaving the European Union are "50-50" if MPs vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the new year, Liam Fox has warned.
In a direct message to his Brexiteer colleagues on the Tory backbenches, the International Trade Secretary said voters would be left feeling “betrayed” if parliament failed to get behind the Prime Minister’s exit agreement with the EU.
And he urged them to swallow their “pride” and show “humility” in the face of the 2016 referendum result.
Asked how confident he was that Britain would leave the EU as planned in March next year, Dr Fox told the Sunday Times: "What you can be sure of is that if we vote for the prime minister’s deal then it’s 100% certain that we will leave on March 29.
"If we do not vote for that, I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50. And for me that would induce a sense that we had betrayed the people that voted in the referendum."
MPs will finally get the chance to vote on Mrs May’s deal in the week of January 14.
A pre-Christmas vote was pulled at the 11th-hour after Downing Street admitted that it did not have the support in the Commons to get the agreement through.
But Dr Fox said failing to support the Brexit deal would be “incendiary”, and reminded MPs that they had already chosen to “subcontract” the question of leaving the EU to the British people in 2016.
“So parliament cannot now, with any honour, renege on that result. Were they to do so, I think you would shatter the bond of trust between the electorate and parliament,” he said.
“And I think that would put us into unprecedented territory with unknowable consequences.”
The International Trade Secretary added: “It’s time parliamentarians put their own pride behind them and started to act with the spirit of humility and delivering to the people what they were promised.”
His comments were quickly seized on by anti-Brexit campaigners as an acknowledgement that Britain’s planned departure from the EU could be stopped.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran of the Best for Britain campaign said: "Brexit not happening isn’t 50-50 as Liam Fox says. It’s actually 56-44.
"That’s the way the public now feels about us stopping this badly-led disaster and strengthening ourselves within the EU.
"The only thing that is shattering the bond of trust between electorate and parliament is the refusal of ministers like Liam Fox to trust people with the final say on Brexit."