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Liam Fox: If MPs block WAB, UK will cancel Brexit or leave with no deal

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LONDON — The United Kingdom will be forced either to cancel Brexit or leave the European Union without a deal if MPs reject a crucial piece of legislation next month, according to minister Liam Fox.

Speaking at the Institute for Government in Westminster on Wednesday, the Secretary of State for International Trade warned MPs that failing to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would leave two potential outcomes.

“There will be an opportunity for MPs to decide, after the local elections and after the European elections, whether they want to vote for Brexit or not,” Fox said.

“I think that MPs will need to look and see whether they want to continue down a path that inevitably, I think, takes us to either the potential revocation of Article 50 or leaving without a deal.”

He added: “Is that he best course, democratically or economically, for the UK?

“MPs will have to face that decision.”

Downing Street announced on Tuesday evening that Theresa May’s government would lay a key piece of Brexit legislation called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — also known as WAB — on the week beginning Monday, June 3.

The bill is not the same as the deal May negotiated, but it must be passed by Parliament for Brexit to be recognised in UK law.

The prime minister, who is widely expected to face another leadership coup in the coming weeks, faces an uphill battle trying to convince the House of Commons majority to back WAB.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will instruct his MPs to vote against it unless and until May accepts his proposed changes to the Brexit deal. That appears unlikely, with cross-party talks failing to produce any real progress.

A significant number of Conservative backbench MPs who vehemently oppose May’s deal are also set to oppose WAB, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party, and the anti-Brexit opposition parties in the Commons.

The vote is widely seen as a potential make-or-break moment for the embattled prime minister, with swathes of Conservatives MPs keen to oust her and replace her with a leader who campaigned for Brexit.

Speaking on Wednesday, Fox — one of the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers — warned May not to retain a customs union with the EU after Brexit, as demanded by the Labour Party in the cross-party talks.

This week a number of senior Tories, including ex-Cabinet ministers and current leadership favourites Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, sent a letter to May warning her that a customs union would be “bad policy and bad politics”.

Fox said that staying in a permanent customs union would have a significant negative “impact” on the Department for International Trade, and act as a “major disincentive for other countries to negotiate trade agreements” with the UK.


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