Dominic Raab has warned that there is a “risk of no deal” because of the EU’s “intransigence”.
Responding to a question in the House of Commons from Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil Gerald Jones about what plans had been made for extra border force staff and to deal with “likely tailbacks” at UK ports after Brexit, Mr Raab said: “There certainly is a risk of no deal if the EU engage in a deliberately intransigent approach.
“He asked about staff, we’re recruiting 300 extra staff with a further 600 planned, we’ve given a range of advice in our 106 technical notices, half of which gave advice on customs procedures on businesses.
“There have been 300,000 letters sent to current customs users, and letters to 145,000 VAT-registered businesses.”
Mr Raab has always stressed that the UK will be ready for all possible outcomes of leaving the EU, but continued to emphasis in Commons on Thursday that the negoitations were aimed at getting the "best deal possible".
Customs staff 'may not be ready' by March 2019
The question came after the National Audit Office released figures on Wednesday (October 24) warning that only one of the “critical systems” needed to manage the border after Brexit would be ready in time, and that processes to “track and physically examine goods cannot be built before March 2019”.
The number of customs declarations after Brexit would rise from 55 million to 260 million, it said, and the extra 581 staff being recruited were not all likely to be ready by the end of March 2019 due to training.
Theresa May told MPs at the beginning of the week that the “vast majority” of the Brexit deal was now clear, but the Irish backstop is still a sticking point, with Michel Barnier saying at an EU leaders' summit in Brussels last week that "much more time" was needed to work out the issue.
- Read more: Vote of no confidence: How does it happen, would Theresa May survive it, and who's written letters of no confidence?
- Read more: Theresa May would survive a no confidence vote, says Bill Cash MP
She is also battling with talk of an internal rebellion, after an anonymous MP reportedly told her to “bring her own noose” to a meeting with the 1922 committee, which she attended on Wednesday.
Two MPs, James Duddridge and Andrew Bridgen, have submitted no confidence letters, but it is not known if there are more.