Theresa May needs to clarify the government's 'no deal' message

 
Christian May
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Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier are ramping up the pace of negotiations (Source: Getty)
ith each passing day the Prime Minister's previous insistence that “no deal is better than a bad deal” slips further down the political memory hole.


It used to be trotted out as often as “Brexit means Brexit” - but as exit day draws closer, and the tension ramps up, we don't hear Theresa May offering it up as a sound bite as much as we used to.

With every business group in the country warning against a no deal scenario, it would take a particularly tone deaf politician to maintain that leaving the EU without any agreed terms amounts to a desirable outcome. Those that still hold this line are few and far between.

The problem for May is that her Chequers deal isn't much good. But although this current proposition represents a bad deal to many in Westminster, no deal remains its less attractive cousin.

As we report today, fears of a no deal Brexit are very real among the general public. Most now expect it as the likely outcome – joining trade secretary Liam Fox who also described it as the probable end point. There can be no doubt about it: no deal would represent a spectacular and unforgivable failure by officials in the UK and EU.

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the decision to leave, and put aside the political posturing that necessarily accompanies any such negotiation, if the two sides part ways early next year without so much as a transition period, heads should hang in shame.

The government has a tricky path to walk when it comes to the notion of a no deal exit. On the one hand, it's clear it doesn't want one yet on the other it insists we'd be OK. Britain would” thrive” without a deal, according to new foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Today we shall see the detail behind the government's no deal planning, but do not be fooled by it into thinking that such an outcome is either manageable or (mercifully) that likely to occur. EU officials and, crucially, member state ministers, know the implications of a failure to agree on even partial terms for the UK's exit.

The UK and EU agree there is now fresh energy in the negotiations, so let us hope the government's no deal documents will soon be gathering dust.

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