'No-Deal' Brexit Threat Still Looms As Boris Johnson Says Preparations Will Continue

The threat of a no-deal Brexit remains on the table, Boris Johnson has suggested, as he confirmed preparations for an exit to WTO terms will continue if he wins the election.

The prime minister said there was “no reason to dismantle” preparations for no deal, despite the UK striking a withdrawal agreement with the EU.

That agreement will see Britain leaving the EU but entering a period of standstill transition until December 2020, during which negotiations on a long-term trade deal will take place.

Johnson has pledged not to extend the transition, leading to fears that Britain will be faced with another “cliff edge” at the end of next year and could crash out of the EU without a deal if trade negotiations collapse.

The PM was appearing at a Westminster press conference alongside senior cabinet minister Michael Gove and former Labour MP, Gisela Stuart as the Vote Leave team which won the 2016 referendum reunited for the first time.

Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart in Westminster today (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)
Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart in Westminster today (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)

Asked if no deal preparations will continue if the Tories win the election and leave on the terms of his deal, Johnson said: “Actually I think they were thoroughly useful in many ways, particularly useful in getting the deal that we eventually did because I think it convinced the EU that we were in earnest about about leaving.

“And many of those preparations will be extremely valuable as we come out of EU arrangements anyway, so I think that they’re the right thing to have done and to keep it in a state of readiness.

“But by the end of 2020 I am also confident we will have a great new FTA (free trade agreement) ready to go.”

He added: “Of course preparations will remain extant, there’s no reason to dismantle them.”

It came as the PM launched a “Brexit roadmap”, including plans to introduce a new state aid regime to allow the government to better prop up ailing industries.

It was born out of frustration at the delay ministers faced while waiting for EU approval to help the steel industry in 2015.

The proposals were immediately criticised by a right-wing think-tank but appeared to be a pitch to win over ex-Labour voter in former industrial heartlands.

Stuart, Johnson and Gove the morning after the vote to leave the EU in 2016 (Photo: PA Archive/PA Images)
Stuart, Johnson and Gove the morning after the vote to leave the EU in 2016 (Photo: PA Archive/PA Images)

Johnson’s Brexit roadmap included:

Stuart meanwhile made a direct pitch to ex-Labour voters to ignore their “family tradition” of voting for the party and back for the Tories to ensure Brexit is delivered.

She said Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour was not the same party that helped her get elected in 1997 under Tony Blair, adding: “In this election I will not vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but I can vote for Brexit.

“This is after all the Brexit election, and a vote for Boris Johnson this time round is a vote to get Brexit done.”

She added: “I urge other Leave voters across the country to join me in voting for Brexit once more by voting for Boris Johnson on December 12 so that we can finish the job we have started so that we can get Brexit done and that we can take back control.”

Aspects of Johnson’s Brexit roadmap were criticised by the right-wing Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank, which described the state aid plans as “support for cronyism”.

It also described the “buy British” policy as “pure protectionism” with “heavy costs”.

The IEA’s Victoria Hewson said: “Current state aid rules already stifle our economy, by allowing government interventions - in special circumstances - to give support to struggling industry.

“Extending these rules, by allowing government to use taxpayers’ money to prop up industries that have no future, would be to move swiftly in the wrong direction, crippling the emergence of new and innovative businesses that our economy relies on.

“Calls to expand state aid translate to veiled support for cronyism. Interventionist and protectionist policies always end up disadvantaging smaller businesses in favour of a few giants.”

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