Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay reiterated the Prime Minister’s ‘no Brexit’ threat in the event of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement being voted down.
Mr Barclay and chief Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, whose letter to Theresa May warning the Irish backstop would lead to a ‘bad outcome’ was leaked to the Telegraph over the weekend, appeared in front of the Exiting the European Union committee to answer questions on the status of the Brexit deal.
Chair Hilary Benn asked Mr Barclay why the government “would not rule out no deal”.
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“Why won’t the government rule out no deal, given first of all, it’s quite clear we’re not ready as a country, and given the documents that were published last week, it would do considerable damage to the economy?” asked Mr Benn.
“I’d rather put it that we’re ‘ruling in’ a deal that respects the referendum result, and our European colleagues have made clear this is the only deal,” Mr Barclay responded.
“It delivers on things such as a skills-based immigration system, taking us out of the fishing as an independent coastal state, taking us out of the common agricultural policy - things that I as a Brexiteer campaigned for, and it delivers on the referendum result.
“It does so in a way that the chancellor has said recently, also manages our economic relationship with Europe and the flow of goods.
“We have a deal, it’s the only deal and it’s the one we’re focused on delivering.”
“That’s very helpful, but that’s not the question I put to you,” Mr Benn responded.
“Why won’t the government rule out no deal, given the view of the government that it will do damage to the economy? How can any responsible government contemplate leaving with no deal?”
“For the government to rule things out, one can’t be certain, because if we don’t support the deal the Prime Minister has secured - that the Prime Minister fought day and night to secure a good deal - if we don’t deliver on that we risk significant uncertainty,” said Mr Barclay.
“As the Prime Minister has said, it could be no deal, it could be no Brexit.
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“The point is, we will move into unchartered waters, we will move into significant uncertainty, it could be no deal, it could be no Brexit, that’s the risk. Both of those options would be very damaging for the jobs of your constituents, the jobs of my constituents.”
“Would you support leaving with no deal?” asked Mr Benn.
“Well we’re preparing…” Mr Barclay began.
“I know you’re preparing but would you support leaving with no deal?” interrupted Mr Benn.
“What I support is the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated and that’s what we’re focused on.”