EXCL Government minister warns no-deal Brexit could break up United Kingdom
A no-deal Brexit could cause the break-up of the United Kingdom, a senior minister has warned.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride also said it would lead to a hard border in Ireland - something Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out.
The MP for Central Devon, who is responsible for the Government's no-deal planning, said he believed a border poll on the reunification of Ireland, and a fresh drive for Scottish independence, will happen unless MPs support the withdrawal agreement struck between Theresa May and Brussels.
In an interview with The House magazine, Mr Stride also warned that the UK economy will only recover from a no-deal Brexit "in the much-longer term", suggesting it could be many years before it is back on track.
And he denied deliberately displaying a government document warning of "no food" in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU in a bid to persuade Tory MPs to back the Government.
On a no-deal Brexit, he said: "It would be a bad outcome. I’m not one of those people who says ‘don’t worry about it, we’ll trade on WTO terms and it’ll all be OK, a bit bumpy in the short term but it’ll be alright’.
"In the much longer term, inevitably, this country is very resourceful and creative and will go out and find its way and make things work. But in the short-to-medium term, I think it could be extremely difficult."
He added: "It’s not just about the economy, it’s also about Ireland and being in a position where we would ostensibly have to have a hard border there. We are not going to impose a hard border, but the EU will presumably be insisting that the Irish government goes in that direction otherwise they damage the integrity of the single market.
“So it’s hard to see how that doesn’t end in a very difficult situation which I think in turn would have knock-on potential consequence for the integrity of the United Kingdom - border polls and that kind of issue, and read-across to Scotland too. So I think a no-deal is not just about the economic but also about the United Kingdom as a whole so we should do our very best to avoid it."
Earlier this month, Mr Stride was mocked after he was pictured with a government folder clearly displaying a piece of paper with the bullet points "no food" and "no Channel tunnel".
Critics suggested it was done on purpose as a way of warning Tory rebels what was at stake if the Prime Minister's deal was defeated in the Commons.
But he said: "It wasn’t done deliberately. I’d have to be a bit stupid to have done that because it would have been a very crude way of trying to signal an exit that most people would have seen as a bit over the top.
"It was certainly not an attempt to walk around with these five or six words poking out of my folder waiting for someone to photograph me in the hope that it will convince my colleagues to take a different view on no-deal."