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Clean Brexit Most Likely Outcome for UK, Says International Trade Secretary

Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox gives a speech on Brexit and trade in London on February 27, 2018. Fox, a leading advocate of Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, made a major speech about the advantages of pursuing an independent trade policy post-Brexit. This speech, one of a number …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that there is now a 60 percent chance of the UK making a clean break with the European Union without a long transition period or bowing to Brussels’ demands for concessions.

“I have never thought it was much more than 50-50, certainly not much more than 60-40,” Mr Fox said in an interview with The Sunday Times.

The International Trade Secretary made the comments following a nine-day global trip negotiating prospective post-Brexit free trade deals, notably in the United States and Japan.

Expressing his optimism about Britain opening up free trade to the rest of the world unfettered by EU tariffs and rules, he noted that the Japanese government and business leaders were among the “most positive”.

Meanwhile, the minister said on Wednesday that Britain is moving ahead with plans to negotiate a free trade deal with the U.S. as soon as it leaves the EU.

This comes in sharp contrast to what he called the “intransigence” and “ideological purity” of the European Commission and its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in terms of building mutually beneficial trade links between the UK and the bloc — with which Britain currently has a £67 billion trade deficit.

“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us towards no deal,” Mr Fox told The Sunday Times.

“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 — then there is only going to be one outcome.”

“It’s up to the EU27 to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies,” he added.

The comments echo those of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week where he said that a “no deal” — or “clean” Brexit leaving the EU without conditions, concessions, or a trade deal — dealing with the bloc on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms — was becoming increasingly likely, saying that the UK will not “blink” in a standoff with the bloc.

Mr Fox urged the Prime Minister to instruct her government to prepare for a clean Brexit, saying: “I think it’s essential that no deal looks credible to the EU.”

At the end of last week, Prime Minister Theresa May returned from a trip to France to discuss her Chequers plan with the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron.

Outcomes of the conversation have not been released by 10 Downing Street, though European diplomats have said that Macron’s — as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s — position on taking hard negotiating stance with Britain has not altered in the intervening months since the Remain-voting Prime Minister last met with the premiers.

The Eurocrats and European leaders have already rejected May’s concessionary-laden proposals for post-Brexit relations, with the latest ultra-soft Chequers Brexit plan, labelled as a betrayal to Brexit voters and an unacceptable act of submission to the bloc, leading to strong support from Brexiteers to have a clean break with Brussels.

In mid-July, May threatened voters that either there would be her Brexit, or none at all, with an MP close to the Prime Minister revealing that she planned to “scare people witless” about the consequences of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit over the summer to win support for her Chequers plan.

Project Fear 2.0 was called off, however, after a number of Brexiteer MPs voiced their opposition to the baseless scare tactics.

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