Exclusive: Liam Fox warns Theresa May that extending Brexit talks would be a 'complete betrayal'

GettyLiam Fox
  • Exclusive: Liam Fox warns Theresa May that extending Brexit negotiations would be a “complete betrayal” of the British public.
  • Speaking to Business Insider, the UK trade secretary said Theresa May should accept a no-deal Brexit over requesting more time to negotiate a deal.
  • He suggests voters are growing impatient with how long it has taken to agree Brexit.
  • May would suffer a major Conservative rebellion if she sought to extend talks.

LONDON & SAN FRANCISCO – Liam Fox has warned Theresa May that extending Brexit negotiations would be a “complete betrayal” of Brexit voters, telling Business Insider that the prime minister should commit to instead leaving the European Union with no deal.

The UK’s International Trade Secretary told BI that if at the end of Article 50 talks there is no deal in place, the UK government should crash out, rather than request more negotiating time.

Asked whether the UK should seek to extend talks if no deal is secured by the time Britain is due to leave in March 2019, Fox replied that May should instead “leave without a deal.”

Fox told BI: “The public have told us, it wasn’t a consultation, to leave the European Union, and the public already wonders why it’s going to take more than four years after the referendum for us to fully remove ourselves from the EU.

“To attempt to extend our membership even longer, many voters would regard as a complete betrayal by the political class, and I think they would be right.”

He accused the EU of pushing Britain towards a no-deal scenario, telling BI that “if [the EU] keep saying no to everything they will end up with no deal.”

If [the EU] keep saying no to everything they will end up with no deal.

Fox, who campaigned vigorously for Britain to leave the EU, has remained loyal to the prime minister despite the recent resignations of two of his fellow senior anti-EU ministers, the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis, from the Cabinet over May’s shift towards a softer form of Brexit.

However, any attempt to extend the Article 50 negotiating period would likely lead to an attempt to topple May, with friends of Fox telling Business Insider that any extension would be an uncrossable red line for him.

Leading pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg welcomed Fox’s comments, tweeting:

The EU is risking a no-deal Brexit

Theresa may liam foxGettyLiam Fox and prime minister Theresa May

The chances of a no-deal Brexit have risen significantly in recent weeks as UK and EU negotiators have failed to make any significant progress on fundamental issues which remain unsolved in withdrawal talks.

On Thursday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier,dealt a huge blow to Theresa May’s Brexit plan, declaring Brussels will not let the UK collect EU tariffs after Brexit, as suggested in her Chequers agreement.

“The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy, of its rules, VAT and excise duty collections to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures,” Barnier said.

Speaking to BI following Barnier’s comments, Fox insisted that the prime minister’s Chequers plan was not dead, and accused the EU of putting “political ideology” before both a Brexit deal and the wellbeing on EU citizens.

“They [the EU] simply don’t want to make this particular method [May’s customs proposal] work.

“So it’s clear that it is possible, but it requires political will to do so. The question will be whether the EU 27 leaders are willing to see the Commission’s political ideology put ahead of the economic well-being of the people of Europe.”

The pro-Brexit minister then took aim at the European Commission. “What the Commission seems to be saying is look, there has to be Brexit on their terms, or no deal at all,” Fox said.

“Now, that may be in line with their own theological attachment to ever-closer union and EU treaties but it may have a large cost to EU member states, the member states who require jobs, prosperity, and trade, because they need to get elected, unlike the Commission officials.”

He warned the EU that a no deal will be the most likely outcome if it continued to be inflexible.

“The EU then need to tell us how they intend to get the frictionless borders that we want to see. So they can’t keep rejecting things without telling us exactly what it is they want,” Fox said.

“So negotiations will continue, and we’ll want to know from them if they don’t want that as a proposal, what do they want, because if they keep saying no to everything they will end up with no deal.”

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