Prime minister Boris Johnson has admitted that leaving Brexit trade talks without a deal is “not what this country wants”.
Johnson was appearing before the liaison committee when he answered questions on criticism he has faced from his five living predecessors over the UK internal market bill.
The prime minister said he had “enormous respect” for them but “it is the duty of the UK prime minister to protect the integrity of the UK against any extreme and irrational, unreasonable, interpretation of the protocol”.
The prime minister told the Liaison Committee that he believed a trade deal with Brussels was still possible.
A no-deal scenario was “not what this country wants” and “it’s not what our EU friends and partners want from us”.
“Therefore I have every hope and expectation that that won’t be the outcome.”
Johnson said he did not believe the European Union was negotiating in good faith – even though Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs earlier on Wednesday that they were.
The prime minister told the committee that the bill – which could be used to effectively tear up parts of the Brexit deal and break international law – provides a “belt and braces protection” against “extreme interpretations of the (Northern Ireland) protocol” by Brussels.
Asked whether he believed the EU was acting in good faith, Johnson said: “I don’t believe they are.”
Challenged over Lewis’s belief that they were acting in good faith, Johnson said: “It’s always possible that I am mistaken and perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong.”
Asked about the flow of food supplies to the UK in the event of a “basic no-deal” Brexit situation with the EU in January, he explained: “I’m confident that we will be able to keep things flowing smoothly at the border, or as smoothly as we possibly can.”