Philip Hammond: 'Bad deal could suck lifeblood out of UK'
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has said that Britain will leave the EU's single market and the bloc's customs union but must avoid the "cliff edge".
The chancellor undermined the British prime minister's mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal" on the eve of Britain's Brexit talks, after he suggested that "no deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain".
Theresa May has said the offer of an unfavourable trade deal with the EU would prompt her to quit talks.
Speaking to the BBC's 'Andrew Marr show', Mr Hammond said: "No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain, but there is a possible worse outcome and that is a deal that is deliberately structured to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time."
He said Brexit meant the UK would definitely be leaving the single market.
"What we put in place may not be a single arrangement that endures forever, it may be an arrangement which lasts for a couple of years as a temporary measure before we get to the long-term agreed status quo," he added.
Mr Hammond emphasised that leaving the EU meant the country would leave the single market and the customs union.
"The question is not whether we are leaving the customs union," he said.
"The question is what do we put in its place in order to deliver the objectives the prime minister set out in her Lancaster House speech of having no hard land Border in Ireland and enabling British goods to flow freely backwards and forwards across the border with the European Union?
"It's a statement of common sense that if we are going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not a cliff edge," he added.
The UK needs a seamless Brexit transition to support jobs and investment by ensuring a new customs arrangement with the European Union that avoids bureaucratic delays to trade, he said.
The UK chancellor said he would not agree to a deal that would "destroy" Britain just hours before the official Brexit negotiations begin.
Meanwhile, Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis has told EU leaders they should be in "no doubt" that Britain is heading for the exit door as formal Brexit talks finally begin today.
In a statement, Mr Davis promised the "historic referendum result" will be "delivered" by Mrs May's (pictured) government.
The comments are designed as a direct rebuttal to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who said that the "door remains open" for Britain to stay in the EU.