Former Tory minister David Gauke says Boris Johnson majority will lead to no-deal Brexit
A Boris Johnson majority government will lead to a no-deal Brexit and devastate large parts of the UK economy, a former Tory Cabinet minister has warned.
David Gauke spoke out as he confirmed that he will stand as an independent against the Conservatives in the South West Hertfordshire seat he has held since 2005.
The former Business Secretary called on the Lib Dems to stand aside in the seat to give him the best chance of winning it - and also revealed that he now supports a second EU referendum.
Mr Gauke, who quit the Cabinet when Mr Johnson became Conservative leader in July, told Radio Four's Today programme: "This pains me to say it, but a Conservative majorty after the next general election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit and in all likelihood at the end of 2020 we will leave the implementation period without a deal with the European Union on WTO terms, in effect on no-deal terms, and that I believe would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country.
"Whole sectors would become unviable, our agriculture sector, our manufacturing industries will be in a very difficult position, if we go down that route.
"And what we've seen in the last few days, with the choreographed, co-operation between Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, is it is very clear that the Government is now boxed in to refusing to extend the implementation period."
The Prime Minister has insisted that the Government would be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU before the end of next year, but Mr Gauke said that was impossible.
"At the very least it will take three years to negotiatie a comprehensive free trade agreement," he said.
Asked whether the Lib Dems should stand aside in his seat, as they have agreed to do for his former Tory colleague Dominic Grieve, Mr Gauke said: "It would obviously make my life easier if they were to do that but that is a decision for them and I hope that they will do so.
"In many places, traditional Conservative voters like me should lend their support to the Liberal Democrats."
On a second referendum, he said: "I have reluctantly come to the view that whereas I thought the best outcome for this country was to unite behind some kind of soft Brexit, that option I don't believe is there any more.
"My view is that the way forward is now to have a confirmatory referendum on Boris Jihnson's deal, now that we know what it is ... and a choice between that and remaining in the European Union.
"I think because the consequences of Boris Johnson's deal are so significant, we do need to check back in with the British people."