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'Very difficult' for Britain to leave EU on October 31, says Business Minister

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has leaving the EU next week will be "very difficult". Credit: PA

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said it was "very difficult" for Britain to leave the European Union next week.

"I think it will be very difficult to leave on October 31 precisely because of the Benn Act, the surrender act, which essentially gave authority to the EU, the other side, about whether we will leave on October 31 or not," he told BBC Breakfast.

"It looks like they may well give us an extension."

He defended the decision to mint hundreds of thousands of commemorative 50 pence coins with the October 31 date.

The process has since been paused.

Mr Kwarteng said: "I don't think it looks foolish. I think it was a very sincere aim of the British Government to leave on October 31, which after all was the date the EU said. It wasn't our date, it was theirs.

"I think it is sad if we don't leave on that date. The reason we are not doing that is because of the Benn Act and the Speaker allowing unprecedented moves and they took control of the order paper and passed this act in record time."

The Labour leader was told to "man up" and fight an election by the PM. Credit: PA

Mr Kwarteng, who attends Cabinet, accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of performing a "U-turn" on wanting a general election and said he was "scared of the outcome".

He reiterated the Prime Minister's assertion that no-deal "can't be taken off the table" - one of the demands made by Opposition parties before agreeing a trip to the polls.

The former Brexit minister said: "I don't think Jeremy Corbyn is saying he doesn't want an election because of no-deal, I think he is saying he doesn't want an election because he is scared of the outcome.

"It is an odd position that he is in. For two years he has said, nearly every week at PMQs, that we should have an election while Theresa May was prime minister. And now he is saying the opposite.

"But for the two years he was campaigning for an election, the position of the Government was that no-deal was better than a bad deal.

"He clearly wanted an election even though no-deal hadn't been taken off the table. He has performed a massive U-turn on this."

Cut to workers' rights 'exaggerated'

Mr Kwarteng said reports that the Government could cut workers' rights after Brexit - despite commitments made to both the EU and MPs - were "way exaggerated".

"I think this is completely mad, actually," he said.

"You've said how we built a coalition - 19 Labour MPs have come with us and voted for a second reading (of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill). "It wouldn't make any sense at all to dilute workers' rights in building that coalition to land the bill."

He added: "I don't think that's remotely accurate. I think it is way exaggerated. I don't know where this story is coming from or what its sources are.

"We have said we will be better than our word. We have said our ambition on securing workers' rights will be stronger than the provision of the bill."