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'Everyone should be worried' about a no-deal Brexit warns Britain's former Brexit chief

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Philip Rycroft

  • A no-deal Brexit is “fraught with risk” and a “step into the unknown” the civil servant in charge of Brexit planning until March.
  • “The rational outcome over the next few months is to get a deal because that is overwhelmingly in the economic interest of both the EU and the UK,” said Philip Rycroft, who resigned as permanent secretary at the Brexit department in March.
  • Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – the candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister – have said they are willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
  • Northern Irish police chiefs warned that no deal could provide an “opportunity” for recruitment by republican paramilitary groups.

LONDON — Everyone should be worried about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, according to the civil servant who was in charge of Brexit planning until March.

Speaking to BBC’s Panorama, Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU, said a no-deal scenario was “fraught with risk” and a “step into the unknown.”

“I think everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown,” he said.

“The rational outcome over the next few months is to get a deal because that is overwhelmingly in the economic interest of both the EU and the UK.”

“It’s not in the UK’s interest to have no deal, it’s not in the EU’s interest to have a no deal,” he said.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the candidates in the race to replace Theresa May as prime minister, have said they are willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

The UK was initially scheduled to leave the UK on March 29 this year but the date was delayed to October 31 after MPs rejected Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and forced her to seek an extension.

Giving his first broadcast interview since he stepped down from the Brexit department in March, Rycroft said the civil service had been “responding brilliantly well” to the challenges of no deal.

But he added: “Of course what that doesn’t mean is that there won’t be an impact from Brexit, and particularly a no-deal Brexit, because that is a very major change and it would be a very abrupt change to our major trading relationship.”

The BBC Panorama programme, which will air on Monday evening, explores what would happen if the UK left with no deal.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) also warned the programme that a no-deal Brexit could provide an “opportunity” for recruitment by republican paramilitary groups.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs said: “We know that the New IRA and other groups continue to recruit people and we believe that Brexit provides an opportunity for them to encourage people to recruit.”

But he said police had not detected “any upsurge” in violence or recruitment being driven by Brexit.

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