Defiant Boris Johnson insists quitting EU with no deal would be 'perfectly OK'

Posted On: 
12th March 2017

Boris Johnson has condemned “apocalyptic” warnings over Britain quitting the EU without new trade arrangements and insisted a ‘no deal’ scenario would be “perfectly OK”.

Boris Johnson The Foreign Secretary contradicted his own colleages and sent a message likely to further worry business
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The Foreign Secretary argued Britain could flaunt its “robust economy” and come out on top by forging new trade agreements with nations it has been barred from “engaging properly” with for 44 years.

His defiant tone follows a stark warning from the Foreign Affairs Committee that quitting the bloc without a new deal would spark a string of dire consequences, and failing to prepare for such a scenario would be a “dereliction of duty”.

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And it flies in the face of his colleague and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who said a ‘no deal’ scenario would disadvantage Brits, while a top business leader said it should be “more like a plan Z” than a plan B.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, meanwhile, insisted Whitehall was drawing up contingency plans for if negotiations fall apart.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, leading Brexiteer Mr Johnson said: “I think that actually, as it happens, we would be perfectly OK if we weren't able to get an agreement, but I'm sure that we will.”

He added: “I don't think that the consequences of 'no deal' are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend.

“Actually I think what you've seen in the Budget from Philip Hammond last week are preparations for Britain over the next few years.

“We have a very strong, very robust economy and we have a chance now to do free trade deals… with countries we have not been able to engage with properly for 44 years.”

'DISADVANTAGE', 'CHAOS' AND 'RUBBISH'

But speaking to Radio 5Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, Mr Fox said: “I think you couldn’t have no deal without disadvantaging both UK citizens and European Union citizens.”

He added: “Certainly it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had no deal but it would be preferential to have a deal.”

And Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, told the same show: “It is a serious worry, the uncertainty around a possible no deal, which I think could lead to really significant chaos in terms of regulation tariffs coming in very quickly.”

She voiced concerns from one chemicals firm that could face 1,500 tariffs under World Trade Organisation rules – the fall-back scenario if there is no new EU deal – and said red tape would be a major problem.

“Add all of those up and you can see why the no deal outcome, we think, shouldn’t be a plan B but should be more like a plan Z in terms of the Governments pecking order,” she added.

She said the CBI believed government ministers were just as concerned about the risks of a ‘no deal’ scenario, but Mr Johnson’s comments suggest otherwise.

The Foreign Secretary’s intervention also drew immediate criticism from Tory peer and ardent Remain supporter Lord Heseltine.

The peer – who was sacked from a handful of Government roles last week for voting against the whip on the Article 50 bill – said of Mr Johnson’s claim: “It’s rubbish, isn’t it?”

He told Peston on Sunday: "He has turned the art of political communication into a science in which waffle, charm, delay, anything to stop answering questions, he does it magnificently."

'NO EVIDENCE' OF CONTINGENCY PLANNING

The Foreign Affairs Committee said not reaching a deal risked dire consequences, including disputes over the exit bill, falling back on WTO trading rules and the reintroduction of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Despite those consequences the MPs said there was "no evidence" the Government had properly prepared for such an outcome. 

“The possibility of ‘no deal’ is real enough to require the Government to plan how to deal with it. But there is no evidence to indicate that this is receiving the consideration it deserves or that serious contingency planning is underway," said committee chair Crispin Blunt, who himself backed Brexit.

“The Government has repeatedly said that it will walk away from a ‘bad’ final deal. That makes preparing for ‘no deal’ all the more essential. Such preparation reinforces that stance," the Tory MP and former minister added.

“Last year, the Committee described the Government’s failure to plan for a Leave vote as an act of gross negligence. This Government must not make a comparable mistake."

'WE NEED TO BE READY'

But Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted he and the “whole of Whitehall” was contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario.

“But understand it's the contingency plan, the aim is to get a good outcome, and I'm confident we'll get a good outcome,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning.

“One of the reasons we don't talk about the contingency plan too much is we don't want people to think this is what we're trying to do, that's there because we need to have it there for two reasons.”

He added that if the negotiations do fall apart “we need to be ready for that and make sure we're in a good position to deal with that”.