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Liam Fox says no-deal Brexit now more likely than agreement with Brussels

Liam Fox says a no deal Brexit is likely Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

The UK appears set to crash out of the European Union without a Brexit deal, Liam Fox has claimed, laying the blame on the "intransigence" of the Brussels machine.

The International Trade Secretary, a prominent backer of Brexit, puts the chances of a no-deal Brexit at “60-40”, despite both sides saying they want to reach an agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the bloc in March 2019.

In an interview with the Sunday Times Dr Fox said he believed the risk of a no-deal scenario had increased, pinning the blame on the European Commission and Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

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“I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us towards no deal,” he said.

“We have set out the basis in which a deal can happen but if the EU decides that the theological obsession of the unelected is to take priority over the economic wellbeing of the people of Europe then it’s a bureaucrats’ Brexit – not a people’s Brexit – then there is only going to be one outcome.”

He said Mr Barnier had dismissed the UK’s proposals in the Chequers plan thrashed out by Theresa May and the Cabinet simply because “we have never done it before”.

The government has admitted its proposals are unprecedented, but Dr Fox said Mr Barnier’s response “makes the chance of no deal greater”.

Theresa May held Brexit talks with Emmanuel Macron at his summer retreat on Friday Credit: Sebastien Nogier/AP

The International Trade Secretary's comments come follow the Prime Minister's meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, which she held on Friday, cutting short her holiday to visit his summer retreat.

Ministers including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab have also engaged in diplomatic activity in Europe in recent days as the government seeks to deal directly with individual governments in an effort to keep the Chequers plan alive.

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In a sign that member states are being warned of the consequences of the failure to find a deal, Dr Fox said: “It’s up to the EU27 to determine whether they want the EU Commission’s ideological purity to be maintained at the expense of their real economies.”

Meanwhile, former cabinet minister Priti Patel said Mrs May must ditch the Chequers plan, which would see a “common rulebook” for goods with the EU – effectively tying the UK to terms set by Brussels.

Writing for the Telegraph website she said it did not meet the result of the referendum and “will leave us half-in and half-out, still bound to EU regulations and constraints”.

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Calling for a looser free trade deal with the EU she said the change would take “political courage, the kind of courage that appears to have been lacking over the past two years”.

Labour former cabinet minister Lord Blunkett used a Sunday Telegraph article to reject claims that people who voted to Leave over immigration concerns were “racist” and said the result would be the same if there was another referendum.

He argued that “people believed our democracy and political system did not reflect their concerns and their cry for help” following the impact of the financial crash and austerity, in many places hitting communities still coping with the aftermath of deindustrialisation.

“To understand this, and why, if there were to be a second referendum now, I believe that the majority would still vote to leave, is critical if we are to get our democratic system back on track,” he said.