| 5.2°C Dublin

UK leaving EU without a deal 'perfectly OK', insists Johnson


British Foreign Secretary and Brexit campaigner Johnson. Photo: PA

British Foreign Secretary and Brexit campaigner Johnson. Photo: PA


British Foreign Secretary and Brexit campaigner Johnson. Photo: PA

A defiant Boris Johnson has insisted it would be "perfectly OK" if Britain ends up leaving the EU with no deal over Brexit.

The British Foreign Secretary said it would not be "apocalyptic" if Theresa May had to walk away from negotiations empty-handed as Britain's economy would continue to thrive.

But his claim was dismissed as "rubbish" by the former Tory cabinet minister Michael Heseltine, while the head of the Confederation of British Industry said no deal would be "a very bad thing for business".

Mr Johnson was speaking after the Foreign Affairs Select Committee published a report warning that quitting the EU without a deal would lead to a "destructive" outcome with "mutually assured damage" on both sides.

Appearing on ITV1's 'Peston on Sunday', he said: "I think that's excessively pessimistic of that otherwise distinguished committee. I think we've got every prospect of doing a very good deal between now and the end of the negotiating period in 2019." He insisted a deal is a "very likely" outcome, stressing that the UK has a "robust" economy and a confident negotiating team.

"But the third thing, which I don't think people recognise, is that our partners and friends around the EU desperately want this thing to work. They don't want more misery, they don't want to fall out with the UK."

Asked if the government is drawing up contingency plans in case there is no deal, Mr Johnson said: "I think that actually, as it happens, we would be perfectly OK if we weren't able to get an agreement, but I'm sure that we will, for the reasons that I gave.

"I don't think that the consequences of no deal are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to protest, and actually what we have seen in the budget from Philip Hammond last week are preparations for Britain over the next few years."

Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, initially agreed with his fellow cabinet minister, saying: "Certainly it wouldn't be the end of the world if we had no deal," when he appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live, but he staged a U-turn on Sky News later in the morning, saying: "Not having a deal of course would be bad, not just bad for the UK but for Europe as a whole."

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said: "It would be a very bad thing for business to crash out with no deal. Business is focused on getting a good deal."

She cited the case of a chemicals firm that could face 1,500 tariffs under World Trade Organisation rules, under which Britain would trade if there was no deal, and said red tape would be a major obstacle.

"Add all of those up and you can see why the no deal outcome, we think, shouldn't be a plan B but should be more like a plan Z in terms of the government's pecking order," she said.

Mr Heseltine, the former trade secretary, was asked by Robert Peston whether it would be "OK" to quit the EU with no deal. He replied: "It's rubbish, isn't it." Accusing Mr Johnson of being evasive when he was asked about other subjects, he said: "When I listen to Boris, he has turned the art of political communication into a science - he will waffle, charm, delay, anything to stop answering questions. He does it magnificently." (© Daily Telegraph London)