Pro-Brexit politicians and business figures have urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to be ready to walk away from the EU without a trade agreement, despite warnings from major manufacturers that a “no deal” Brexit would be an economic disaster.
In an open letter, 60 politicians, economists and business chiefs accused the EU of being “intransigent” in divorce talks and said Britain should threaten to withhold the £39 billion (R695bn) divorce bill it has already agreed to pay.
The letter released yesterday by Economists for Free Trade was signed by prominent supporters of a “hard Brexit”, including ex-UK Treasury chief Nigel Lawson, Conservative politicians John Redwood and Peter Bone, and Tim Martin, chairperson of the Wetherspoons pub chain.
They urged UK authorities “to accelerate their preparations for ‘no deal’ and a move to a World Trade Deal under WTO rules”.
That would mean tariffs and other trade barriers between Britain and the EU, and many businesses say it would severely harm the UK economy.
May’s Conservative government is divided between Brexit-backing ministers calling for a clean break so that Britain can strike new trade deals around the world, and those who want to stay closely aligned to the EU, Britain’s biggest trading partner. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Sunday urged people to unite behind the prime minister.
On Saturday, however, tens of thousands of anti-Brexit protesters marched in London to demand a new referendum on leaving the EU as Britain marked the second anniversary of its 2016 vote to quit the bloc.
“Brexit is not a done deal. Brexit is not inevitable. Brexit can be stopped,” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable told the crowd.