Brexit should be postponed in order to give negotiators more time to secure a deal, says Andy Burnham.
The Greater Manchester Mayor believes that the Article 50 negotiation period should be extended beyond March 2019 as a contingency measure if the only alternative was a no-deal Brexit.
The former Labour Cabinet minister also suggests a second referendum could be required if no agreement is reached between the UK and Brussels.
Joining Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO, Burnham said a no-deal Brexit would result in a “double digit hit” on the Greater Manchester econonmy.
“The big worry is, according to the government’s own figures, it would result in a double digit hit on the Great Manchester economy,” he said.
"Everything I hear from everybody I speak to in business in Great Manchester says we cannot possibly go over that cliff edge because it will ruin businesses, jobs, and people’s lives.
“I’ve held back, I’ve not been seeking to intervene at every stage of this but as the new political season has opened it’s becoming clear to me that a threat of a no-deal Brexit is now looming very large for me indeed, and now is the time to speak up.”
'Six' more months
Burnham said he still respected the referendum result but has suggested that leaving the European Union be postponed by “at least six months” to find the time to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
“I’ve always said the referendum that we’ve had to respect the result,” he added.
“I still believe the right thing to do, as we sit here today, is for people to coalesce around a plan that maintains as much as possible our links with Europe but also allows the UK government to respond to what people were saying at the referendum especially on immigration.
“I believe, that is where the national interest lies, that we get that plan together and move forward with a practical Brexit.
“Now, the problem is, the chances of that are receding by the hour, and therefore the cliff edge of crashing out of Europe with a no-deal Brexit gets ever closer.
“It’s now too close for comfort for me given the effect it would have on Great Manchester and it’s why I’m saying that we now need a contingency plan to guard against a no-deal Brexit and firstly that is asking for more time to get a deal that works.
Julia asked him how much time would be needed to find that a deal that would work.
“I would say at least six months, because there’s no prospect of a plan, Tory MPs have returned from the break to pronounce the Chequers deal dead, and that is a devastating setback,” he said.
No-deal Brexit referendum
Watch: Justine Greening tells Julia Hartley-Brewer she supports a second referendum
The government has been facing calls from pressure groups, campaigners and some MPs to hold a ‘people’s vote’ on the terms of the Brexit agreement before the UK leaves the European Union.
Burnham said he doesn’t support a second referendum, but would support one if the question was asking the people if we should leave with a no-deal Brexit.
“I don’t rush to support it because if we think the first one was bad in terms of division it caused on our streets, the second one would be a whole lot worse,” he said.
“There is something worse than a second vote and that is a no-deal Brexit, in the scenario where we are on that cliff edge and there is no other option on the table, I would favour a vote on whether or not Britain should leave the European Union with no-deal.
“I think there is a majority of people across the divide, both leave and remain voters, that don’t think that is a good idea, to the extent if there’s any majority on Brexit I think that is where the majority now is, I think that majority needs to find its voice and that’s why I’m speaking up.”