Hopes meagre, says Riga: Latvian minister gives no-deal Brexit 50-50 odds
PUBLISHED: 10:27 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 15 August 2018
The chance of a chaotic no-deal Brexit is now "50-50", Latvia's foreign minister said today in a stark warning to Theresa May.
Edgars Rinkēvičs said there was a "very considerable risk" of a no-deal scenario but insisted he remained optimistic an agreement with Britain on its withdrawal from the EU could be reached.
He said that the UK government's more detailed position laid out in Mrs May's Chequers plan "constitutes a good ground for really trying hard to reach a deal".
His comments came as foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt began a three-day visit to attempt to woo European politicians to back the government's Brexit plan.
He will meet counterparts in Finland, Latvia, Denmark and the Netherlands as the deadline for agreeing a deal grows closer.
On the chances of no deal, Mr Rinkēvičs told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Frankly at this point, I would rate it 50-50... well, I think that 50-50 is a very considerable risk if that were to be, let's say, a 70-30 that we get a deal, I would be very satisfied. But of course, from our point of view, as you know, the EU is united at 27.
"We also are satisfied to see that there is [a] more detailed position of the British government, that constitutes a good ground for really trying hard to reach a deal.
"So having said 50-50, I would say I'm remaining optimistic."
Mr Rinkēvičs said his country was "satisfied" with the preliminary agreement reached between the UK and the EU in relation to the rights of EU nationals.
He said: "I think that we are at a very critical point... I believe that both the EU and UK need to have extra effort to reach some kind of deal by October because I believe that it is in the best interests of both the UK and EU.
"However I also think that only now the British public, the British government understand how complex, how difficult this kind of Brexit is, it is very difficult also to build the future relationship, but Latvia is very interested in having a deal, not only when it comes to trade, but also security, co-ordination of foreign and defence policy between the UK and EU."
On the threat from Russia, he said: "I think that what we have seen in recent years is that Russia is getting more and more assertive and more and more aggressive, and it's not only about Ukraine or Moldova or Georgia, now we see that such kind of interference like elections in the US or the poisoning, or so-called Salisbury incident shows that we need to take this so-called hybrid warfare extremely seriously."
He added he believed there was no direct military threat to the Baltic states but there was a need to be more agile and more prepared.
Transport secretary and keen Brexiteer Chris Grayling said there was a need to "re-double efforts" to make a deal.
He said: "None of us want no deal, none of us are working towards that, I think it would be damaging for both this country and the EU.
"We've got to re-double our efforts to make sure we reach the right agreement this autumn and that's why Theresa May has brought forward the Chequers proposals. They are not easy to sell in this country as we know, they are difficult for Brexiteers to accept.
"My view, having thought about this very carefully, is that they do offer us a way to reach an agreement with the EU. I didn't campaign to leave the EU in order to have a different specification of motorcar in France to in the UK, so I can accept having alignment on the technical specifications of manufactured goods, if that is the price we need to pay in order to have a sensible relationship for the future."
Mr Grayling insisted it would be unacceptable to agree continued free movement of people, adding: "I think we can get there, I think we just have to work very hard this autumn to achieve it."
No deal, he said, would have a "big negative effect" on other countries and it was in everybody's interests to have a "good, sensible, balanced, stable relationship for the future".
Asked if an extension to Article 50 was necessary, Mr Grayling said the best thing to do was "get on with the job" and the Chequers proposals provided the "basis for both sides to reach an accommodation".