BRITAIN is now likely to crash out of the EU without a deal because its chief negotiator is refusing to budge, it was claimed yesterday.
International trade secretary Liam Fox put the chances of a deal at just 40 per cent after Theresa May’s Chequers plan was dismissed by Michel Barnier — who the Brexiteer accused of ‘pushing us towards no deal’. Mr Fox warned the EU was heading for ‘a bureaucrats’ Brexit — not a people’s Brexit’.
Critics accused Mr Fox of deflecting blame after he said last year a trade agreement with the EU ‘should be the easiest deal in the history of mankind’.
Mr Barnier has said the Chequers plan for free movement of goods — but not services or people — would ‘undermine our single market which is one of the EU’s biggest achievements’.
Mr Fox said the ball was now in the bloc’s court, and added: ‘If they don’t like the (deal) we have put on the table, it’s down to them to show us one acceptable to us.’ His warning came as Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the prospect of no deal was now ‘uncomfortably high’.
Mr Fox urged EU governments to think of the damage a hard Brexit would cause across the continent. He accused Mr Barnier of ‘intransigence’ by rejecting the Chequers plan ‘because we have never done it before’.
‘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,’ he told The Sunday Times.
‘It’s up to the EU27 to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies.’
But Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: ‘The fact Liam Fox now sees a no-deal Brexit as likely is testament to Theresa May’s failure to protect British interests.’ He accused ministers of delivering ‘nothing more than senseless soundbites’.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Mrs May’s ‘reckless red lines’ had imperilled a deal, along with Tory splits and ‘fantasy Brexiteer promises’.
‘No deal would be a catastrophic failure of government, which no government should survive,’ he added.
Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said a customs union is now ‘clearly the right option’.
The prime minister’s spokesman said she ‘remains confident’ of a good deal.
He said: ‘We are urging Brussels and the nations of the EU27 to engage with the Brexit white paper and make sure we avoid a no-deal Brexit.
‘We are ramping up our no-deal preparations, as was planned, because there was always a possibility of no deal.’