The Father of the House has warned that a no-deal Brexit would be an ‘unintended mistake’ that could cost the economy more than 10% – and leaving with a trade deal could shrink it by up to five per cent.
Sir Peter Bottomley also said that former Tory MPs culled by the party for defying a three-line whip on Brexit – including former Father of the House Ken Clarke – “ought to be in parliament”.
In an interview with the Press Association, the MP for Worthing West said that the risk of a no-deal Brexit had become “much smaller” but expressed concern about Boris Johnson’s 11-month time frame for securing a deal with the EU.
While the prime minister has refused to consider extending the timetable for trade discussions beyond the end of 2020, senior EU figures have warned that such a short period is almost impossible.
Asked if he thought the timetable is realistic, Sir Peter told PA: “I think the three-word answer is, I hope so.”
However, he felt that the “reasonably sensible” EU negotiators would help minimise the risk of a no-deal Brexit in the interests of both sides.
He said: “I think the risk is much smaller, I think the EU27 like the UK have got so many interests in common and reasonably sensible people negotiating for them – and the biggest problem the EU27 face is not actually Britain leaving, it’s how they can get their system to work more effectively for the people who are inside.”
He added: “To leave on no deal, in what’s called no deal, which is some sort of similarity to WTO, I think would be an unintended mistake and error by both sides.”
He went on: “I’m convinced that if we can leave on reasonable terms, the difference to our economy may set us back 3 to 5% over a period of years, not each year.
“If we crash out, I suspect we’d have a hit to our economy of about 10 to 12% and then have to rescue ourselves from that.”
Speaking about the cull of 21 Tory MPs in September over their refusal to vote in line with the government on a bill that ultimately allowed the passage of the Benn Act, Sir Peter said that the whip had been “unnecessarily” withdrawn.
Sir Peter became Father of the House – the longest-standing male MP serving in the Commons – after Ken Clarke stepped down.
Former Tory grandee and Father of the House Clarke, who was one of the rebels in the vote, decided to retire from politics just prior to the general election.
Speaking of the cull, Sir Peter said: “People around the prime minister took the decision to withdraw the whip from a number of people, unnecessarily in my view.”
He said he was “sorry” to see the 11 former Tory MPs who did not have the whip restored – such as Anne Milton, David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and Philip Hammond – not back in parliament.
He added: “A lot of the Conservatives I think ought to have come back and I’m sorry they didn’t … These are people who ought to be in parliament and parts of the system aren’t working right when they’re not … I wish it hadn’t happened.”
Despite this, Sir Peter said he was “full of hope” regarding Johnson’s pledge to lead a “one nation Tory” government.