Prime Minister Theresa May has been slammed for failing to prepare a Brexit backup plan as she gets set to trigger Article 50.
The criticism was levelled by the influential cross-party Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which warned of the "real prospect" that two years of negotiations with the EU could end with no deal.
If that was the case, the committee warned of the dire economic consequences that would ensue if no contingencies were prepared. As such, May's inaction would constitution "a serious dereliction of duty" by failing to act in Britain's best interests.
After months of collecting evidence, the committee published its findings in a report on Sunday (12 March).
Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, chair of the committee, said: "It is possible to envisage scenarios in which 'no deal' might be better than a bad deal, as the government has suggested… however, it is clear from our evidence that a complete breakdown in negotiations represents a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK.
"Both sides would suffer economic losses and harm to their international reputations. Individuals and businesses in both the UK and EU could be subject to considerable personal uncertainty and legal confusion. It is a key national and European Union interest that such a situation is avoided."
He added: "[Such a] mistake would constitute a serious dereliction of duty by the present administration."
The findings are likely to embolden some Conservatives to rebel against the government and vote in favour of giving MPs a "meaningful vote" on the outcome of the final negotiations with the EU when the issue is debated on Monday (13 March).
However, Brexit Secretary David Davis has urged MPs to leave the bill unchanged arguing that putting such measures into law at this stage would leave May having to negotiate with "one arm behind her back".
In an effort to quell concerns, Davis also appeared on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday to confirm that, in the case of no deal, backup plans were being drafted.
"The simple truth is that we have been planning for the contingency – all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes – of the negotiation," he said.
"About two or three weeks ago… it was briefed out that I had spent most of the cabinet meeting talking to the cabinet about the importance of making sure the contingency plans were online as well as the other plans."
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