Brexit Secretary David Davis today warned there was a possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal – before falling off the stage himself.
The arch-Brexiteer said a trade deal was the most likely outcome of the divorce talks, but added that the government was prepared to leave without a deal.
And then, in a striking visual metaphor, he tumbled off the stage as he left, laughing and looking backwards as he steadied himself.
Mr Davis had told a Brexit conference entitled Deal Or No Deal in London: “Reaching a deal with the European Union is not only far and away the most likely outcome, it’s also the best outcome for our country.
Brexit Secretary David Davis provides the visual metaphor of the day pic.twitter.com/mneMJXQEGC
— The New European (@TheNewEuropean) November 21, 2017
“I don’t think it would be in the interest for either side for there to be no deal. But as a responsible government it is right that we make every plan for every eventuality.”
It comes amid reports that Leave supporters in the cabinet had agreed the UK should offer to pay more money to the EU as it leaves.
No new figure has formally been given, but reports say it could be up to £40bn – double the government’s previous offer.
The UK and the EU have yet to agree on the payment with the UK due to leave the EU in March 2019. The government wants to move discussions on to the future trade relationship, which Brussels will not consider until the payment is settled.
And while Mr Davis said today he was “unambiguously” seeking a deal, he insisted the UK was ready for talks to fail.
He told the conference: “Over the past year every department across Whitehall has been working at pace covering the whole range of scenarios.
“These plans have been well developed, have been designed to provide the flexibility to respond to a negotiated agreement, as well as preparing us for the chance that we leave without a deal.”
He added: “While I have said I’m confident that we can get a deal with the European Union, of course, the alternative is possible, not probable, but it’s possible, that we don’t get a deal.
“The department I run, Dexeu for short, isn’t called the department for getting a deal come what may, it is the Department for Exiting the European Union.
“And, whatever happens, we are leaving the European Union and delivering on the instructions of the British people.”
Some backbench Conservative MPs have reacted with fury to the possibility of prime minister Theresa May agreeing to pay more than previously offered.
One, Nigel Evans, described it as a “ransom payment” to the EU while Robert Halfon claimed it would make voters “go bananas”.
The suggestion of an increased offer came after 10 key ministers met in Downing Street ahead of the crunch summit next month where EU leaders will decide if enough progress has been made on the divorce settlement to move on to talks over future trade.