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Ministerial revolt looming over ‘no-deal’ Brexit risk

Airbus CEO says no-deal Brexit could force it to relocate

Senior figures in the Cabinet appear to breaking ranks with prime minister Theresa May over the risk of a no-deal Brexit and the damage it could wreak on the UK economy.

Yesterday business minister Richard Harrington said he welcomed comments by Airbus that the government’s handling of Brexit had been a “disgrace” and there was a real risk that it would relocate plants to other countries. Airbus employs around 14,000 workers in the UK.

Business minister Richard Harrington

Speaking at a gathering of German industry representatives in London, Harrington reiterated his opposition to no-deal, according to a Guardian report, saying it would be a “total disaster for the economy” and added: “I am very happy to be public about it and very happy if the prime minister decides I am not the right person to do the business industry job.”

He also said that Brexiteers insisting that it would be OK to crash out on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms were deluding themselves. “There are no WTO rules – this is one of the fictions and fallacies,” he asserted. “It provides a platform and a membership to negotiate individual agreements.”

Other Ministers – including work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and justice secretary David Gauke – have suggested they would resign rather than support a no-deal Brexit, while chancellor Philip Hammond refused to rule out such a move on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, saying that the economic fallout of no-deal “was not what people voted for” in the 2016 referendum.

The comments come after May is coming under increasing criticism for doggedly sticking to the mantra that the only way to avoid no-deal is to back a revised version of her own proposal, despite its comprehensive defeat in the Commons earlier this month, and concentrating on persuading her own party to back this rather than trying to build a cross-party consensus.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also refused to take part in any talks until the prime minister rules out a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs led by Labour MP Yvette Cooper are preparing to add an amendment to the ‘plan B’ Brexit approach, to be debated in the House of Commons next week, in an attempt to block a no-deal Brexit. The amendment would seek a delay to Brexit to the end of the year if a withdrawal agreement isn’t approved by the Common by 26 February.

Last week, a poll of UK businesses found that 45% of UK business leaders now favour a second vote on Brexit, with that option overtaking an orderly exit from the EU with a deal for the first time. However, the People’s Vote campaign admitted yesterday it did not have enough support from MPs to make this happen – unless Corbyn changes his stance and tells Labour MPs to back the plan.

Pharma industry bodies are in wait-and-see mode as the Westminster farce rumbles on. BioIndustry Association (BIA) chief executive said it should become clearer next week “if there is appetite in the UK Parliament to vote positively for any form of Brexit, or agree to rule out no-deal, or seek a delay.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th January 2019

From: Regulatory

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