Shambles: MPs slam PM over ‘no deal better than bad deal’ claim

PUBLISHED: 12:09 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:40 05 April 2017

Committee chairman and Labour MP Hilary Benn

Committee chairman and Labour MP Hilary Benn

PA Archive/PA Images

The Brexit Committee has called on the Government to publish a thorough assessment of the consequences of crashing out of the EU

An influential group of MPs has attacked the Prime Minister’s belief that “no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal” saying the claim is “unsubstantiated”.

The House of Commons Exiting The European Union Committee called on the Government to conduct and publish a thorough assessment of the consequences of crashing out of the EU without agreement on future trade relations.

And it demanded Parliament must be given a vote on whether to accept the Prime Minister’s decision to leave without a deal at the end of the two-year Brexit negotiation process.

Committee member Alistair Carmichael said the report was “a devastating critique of the shambles that is the Conservative Brexit strategy”.

“On point after point, the committee makes clear that the Government is wrong, such as on their insistence that a trade deal can be secured in time to avoid a cliff-edge Brexit, and on the Government’s singular inability to explain even in general terms how it would replace the customs union,” the Liberal Democrat MP added.

But the report has proved divisive with the cross-party committee split – six pro-Brexit MPs voted against its publication amid reports of a walkout by members who regarded it as “too gloomy”.

Five Conservatives, including former ministers John Whittingdale and Dominic Raab, and Democratic Unionist Sammy Wilson voted against the report, but were outnumbered by 10 Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat, SNP and SDLP committee members, all who backed Remain in last year’s referendum.

The report comes after the committee heard Brexit Secretary David Davis admit no assessment had been made of the cost of leaving the EU without a trade deal and falling back on World Trade Organisation tariffs.

“Without an economic assessment of ‘no deal’ having been done and without evidence that steps are being taken to mitigate what would be the damaging effect of such an outcome, the Government’s assertion that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, is unsubstantiated,” the report warned.

It backed the finding of a previous report by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that a no deal scenario “represents a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK”.

Parliament and the public have a “right to the maximum possible information” about the impact of failing to secure a deal, and the Government should conduct “a thorough assessment of the economic, legal and other implications” of all options under consideration, the report said.

The committee challenged Theresa May’s insistence that she will offer only a “take it or leave it” vote to Parliament on any deal she achieves, stating it was “essential” MPs also get a vote “in the event that there is no deal”.

Committee chairman Hilary Benn said: “Leaving the EU without a future trade deal and in doing so defaulting to World Trade Organisation rules is no less an important decision for the UK’s economic future than the terms of any future Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU.

“It is therefore essential that such a step is not taken without Parliament having a vote on the matter.”

The committee called on the UK Government and EU to reach a “stand-alone and separate” deal on the rights of expatriate citizens as soon as negotiations start, warning it would be “unconscionable” to make three million EU nationals in the UK and one million Britons living on the continent wait until the end of the Article 50 process for certainty about their status.

The committee’s report comes as Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel cast doubt on the possibility of completing the “laborious endeavour” of striking a deal in such a short period. Gabriel instead suggested both sides may have to be content with getting as far as they can within two years, rather than sealing the deal within that timeframe.

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