Michael Gove has denied that the government are gambling with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
Michael Gove told MPs there has been ‘sadly no movement’ on key Brexit negotiation areas, including fisheries and the ‘level playing field’.
Speaking about the most recent round of talks, he told MPs: ‘Both sides did engage constructively, there was however sadly no movement on the most difficult areas where differences of principle are at their most acute, notably on fisheries, governance arrangements and the so-called level playing field.’
Labour MP Hilary Benn and chair of the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee said it seemed the government was taking a ‘gamble’.
He said: ‘We all know that Mr Gove is not very keen on economic forecasts, but given the growing warnings from business – the latest today has come from the CBI – he must be aware of the damage that would be inflicted on businesses by red tape, tariffs and loss of access if there is no agreement reached with the European Union in the next four months.
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‘Now we all want a deal, but with British businesses already reeling from coronavirus, what does Mr Gove propose to say to those businesses come January if the Government’s gamble doesn’t pay off?’
Gove replied: ‘Well the government isn’t gambling, the government is holding the European Union to account for its commitment to secure a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal and to use its best endeavours.
‘And I have confidence that the European Union will do that.’
Peter Grant, SNP MP, echoed the comments of the director general of the CBI that a no-deal Brexit announced at the last minute would be ‘catastrophic’ for business.
He asked what economic analysis had been taken on a no-deal Brexit during the coronavirus crisis.
But Gove insisted ‘we can’t have a no-deal Brexit because we had a Brexit deal which was agreed and voted on in this House of Commons which is why we left the European Union on January 31st’.
Labour’s Barry Sheerman said he was ‘very worried’ about Gove, adding: ‘Isn’t it a fact that there’s a rift between him and the prime minister?
‘The prime minister is not good on detail, there is a rift between him and the prime minister, does he need more help to overcome that?’
Gove said he was grateful for Sheerman’s offer to ‘step in as a marriage counsellor’, adding: ‘Notwithstanding my earlier reference to Morecambe and Wise, the prime minister and I, when it comes to everything, are like the Two Ronnies.
‘And I have to say it’s goodnight from him and it’s goodnight from me.’