Delaying Brexit worse than no deal, says Liam Fox

Delaying or cancelling Brexit would be a “calamitous” breach of trust with the electorate and worse than leaving the EU with no deal, Liam Fox has said.The Brexiteer minister told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme MPs pushing for a delay actually wanted to stop Brexit. He said this was the “worst outcome” of the current wrangles. MPs are proposing alternative plans to the PM’s deal with the EU, including seeking an extension to the UK’s exit date – which is scheduled for 29 March. But the prime minister has said the “right way” to rule out no-deal Brexit is to approve her withdrawal agreement. Under current law, the UK will exit the EU on 29 March, whether or not a deal has been struck. The decision to leave was taken by 52% to 48% in a referendum in June 2016.Liam Fox said MPs should think about the “political consequences” of delaying Brexit not just the “short-term economic consequences”. “There is no doubt that leaving with a deal and minimising disruption both to the UK and our EU trading partners is in our best interest,” the international development secretary said. “But I think the most calamitous outcome would be for Parliament, having promised to respect the result of the referendum, to turn around and say it wouldn’t.” But Conservative Remainer Anna Soubry said it was “not true” that Tory MPs backing a move to prevent a “no deal” Brexit – such as Nick Boles, Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin – wanted to stop Brexit and had in fact voted for Theresa May’s withdrawal deal. Mr Boles said Mr Fox had “never been very good at detail”. Former Chancellor George Osborne, a key player in the Remain campaign during the referendum, has said delaying the UK’s exit from the EU was now the “most likely” option. Speaking to BBC business editor Simon Jack in Davos, Mr Osborne, now a newspaper editor, said that the prospect of no-deal meant “the gun is held to the British economy’s head”. “Russian roulette is a game which you should never play because there’s a one-in-six chance that the bullet goes into your head,” he said. Mr Osborne, who was sacked by Mrs May when she became prime minister after the referendum, said his successor Philip Hammond had “sensibly” told businesses that leaving without a deal was not a possibility. “But we now need to hear it from the British prime minister,” he said. The other 27 EU member states would need to agree to an extension of the UK’s departure date. Next Tuesday MPs will get to vote on Theresa May’s way forward on Brexit, after rejecting her initial plan by a record-breaking 230 votes last Tuesday. Mrs May is hoping to tweak the deal to address concerns about the Northern Irish “backstop” among her own backbenchers and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which she relies on to keep her in power. But MPs are attempting to take control of the Brexit process by tabling amendments to Mrs May’s plans