Britain’s chances of leaving the European Union are only “50-50” if MPs reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, a senior minister warned on Sunday.
Liam Fox, the international trade secretary and a vocal Brexit campaigner during the 2016 referendum, warned colleagues planning on voting against Ms May that her plan was the only way to be “100 per cent certain” that Britain would leave.
“If we were not to vote for that, I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50,” he told The Sunday Times.
Ms May’s government is trying to persuade a sceptical British parliament to endorse a broad withdrawal deal she struck with European leaders last month.
But the bill’s passage is far from certain, with Ms May having to pull an initial vote with a crushing defeat looking, rescheduling it for the week beginning January 14.
Pro-Brexit supporters are particularly concerned about the deal’s so-called “backstop” provision, which could keep Britain locked in a customs union with the EU in order to avoid a “hard” border between British province Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
But Mr Fox urged his colleagues to “put their own pride behind them” and take what was on offer.
“The worst possible outcome of this process would be no Brexit,” he told the paper.
“For me that would induce a sense that we had betrayed the people that voted in the referendum.
“What you can be sure of is that if we vote for the prime minister’s deal then its 100 per cent certain that we will leave on March 29.”
He also warned parliament against trying to thwart the process through a series of legislative procedures.
“Shattering that bond of trust between parliament and the people, I think, would be incendiary,” he said.
‘GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER’
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Britain to “get your act together” on Brexit on Sunday, as he rejected accusations that the EU had a hidden agenda of keeping Britain in the bloc.
“I find it unreasonable that part of the British public seems to think that it’s entirely up to the EU to present a solution for all future British problems,” Mr Juncker told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
“My call is: get your act together. And tell us what you want. Our proposals have been on the table for months.”
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a vote in the House of Commons on the withdrawal deal she struck with the EU in November, fearing a huge defeat as many of her own MPs oppose it.
She is seeking further clarifications from Brussels on arrangements relating to the Irish border, and has said the vote would take place the week of January 14.
It also means the parliamentary decision would come just weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.
The Labour Party, the main opposition, has accused Ms May of “running down the clock” to try to force MPs to back her deal rather than risk Britain leaving the EU with no arrangements in place.
“I get the impression that the majority of the British politicians deeply distrust the EU and Madame May,” said Mr Juncker.