LONDON (Reuters) – British trade minister Liam Fox said “intransigence” from the European Union was pushing Britain toward a no-deal Brexit, in an interview published on Saturday by the Sunday Times.
With less than eight months until Britain quits the EU, the government has yet to agree a divorce deal with Brussels and has stepped up planning for the possibility of leaving the bloc without any formal agreement.
Fox, a prominent Brexit supporter in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, put the odds of Britain leaving the European Union without agreeing a deal over their future relationship at 60-40.
“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us toward no deal,” Fox told the Sunday Times after a trade mission in Japan.
“We have set out the basis in which a deal can happen but 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 — (and) then there is only going to be one outcome.”
It was up to the EU whether it wanted to put “ideological purity” ahead of the real economy, Fox said.
If Britain fails to agree the terms of its divorce with the EU and leaves without even a transition agreement to smooth its exit, it would revert to trading under World Trade Organization rules in March 2019.
Most economists think this would cause serious harm to the world’s No.5 economy as trade with the EU, Britain’s largest market, would become subject to tariffs.
Supporters of Brexit say there may be some short-term pain for Britain’s $2.9 trillion economy, but that long-term it will prosper when cut free from the EU, which some of them cast as a failing German-dominated experiment in European integration.
On Friday Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the chances of a no-deal Brexit had become “uncomfortably high”.
Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Sandra Maler