A senior British opposition politician said Sunday that it’s unlikely the U.K. will leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29, while a government minister warned that failure to deliver on Brexit would betray voters and unleash a “political tsunami.”
The Brexit process has been deadlocked since Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the EU was rejected by Parliament last week. Some lawmakers are pushing for the U.K. to delay its departure until politicians can agree on a way forward.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said “it’s inevitable” Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year Brexit countdown that ends on March 29.
“The 29th of March is 68 days away,” Starmer told the BBC. “We are absolutely not prepared for it. It would be catastrophic.”
Britain’s political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking gridlock at ports and shortages of essential supplies. Many economists expect Britain to plunge into recession if there is a “no-deal” Brexit.
May’s government is split between ministers who think a “no-deal” Brexit must be avoided at all casts, and Brexit-backers who believe it would be preferable to delaying or reversing Brexit.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who quit the government in opposition to May’s agreement with the EU, said a no-deal Brexit would have “short-term risks,” but they would be “manageable.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that “failure to deliver Brexit would produce a yawning gap between Parliament and the people, a schism in our political system with unknowable consequences.”
He said public anger could trigger “a political tsunami.”
May has spent the last few days meeting government and opposition lawmakers, and is due to report to Parliament Monday on how she plans to alter the rejected deal. The talks have produced few signs that May plans to make radical changes.
Lawmakers who want a softer Brexit are preparing to try to amend May’s plans in a Jan. 29 debate, and to use parliamentary rules to try to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit and take control of the exit process.
Speaking on the BBC, Fox said that “Parliament has not got the right to hijack the Brexit process.”
But Starmer said there was a roadblock in the way of a solution to the Brexit crisis, “and that roadblock is the prime minister.”
“Her mind is closed,” he said.