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Brexit chief says government must prepare for no deal

Planning is under way in 'every aspect' to make sure Britain is prepared if he does not reach an accord

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Dominic Raab became Brexit secretary on July 9 after David Davis resigned from the post in protest against Prime Minister Theresa May's divorce blueprint.

London

BRITAIN'S new head of Brexit talks said that the country needs to prepare for the possibility of negotiations collapsing on a new trading arrangement with the European Union once the divorce is final.

"Any responsible government must make sure we have planning in place in case of a no-deal outcome," Dominic Raab, appointed Brexit secretary this month, told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC television. "We want the best deal possible."

Britons need not worry about the prospect of no deal emerging, Mr Raab said, when asked about how that might leave imports stranded at borders, create the need to stockpile food, prevent airplanes from landing, or negate residency rights for Britons abroad or foreigners living in the UK.

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While he expects to reach an accord, planning is under way in "every aspect" to make sure that the country is prepared if he does not, he said.

The remarks follow an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in which Mr Raab said that the UK would refuse to pay the £39 billion (S$69.8 billion) divorce bill with the EU if the bloc fails to agree on a deal.

Brexit is dividing the country and UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party, which is split between those who want a clean break with the EU and those who want to maintain closer ties.

Dominic Grieve, a Conservative Member of Parliament, said on Sky News that some members of his party are "actively seeking" to leave the bloc without a new trade arrangement. "No deal would be absolutely catastrophic," he said on the Sunday Politics show. "If the government thinks no deal is possible, it might take emergency measures, but let's be realistic - we will be in a state of emergency."

The tension is also affecting the opposition Labour Party. John McDonnell, Labour's spokesman on the economy, equivocated on whether he would support a second Brexit referendum and argued that the main contribution that a Labour government could make would be to "change the whole atmosphere of the negotiations".

Speaking on Sky News, he said that he would like to see a general election soon, though he expects the government to cling to office for a while yet.

A poll published on July 21 showed that the number of voters who oppose Mrs May's draft plan for a future trading arrangement vastly exceeds those who support it, 43 per cent to 12 per cent. Voters are also prepared to back new political parties - either a right-wing group supporting Brexit or a centrist force opposed to leaving the EU.

Mr Raab became Brexit secretary on July 9 after David Davis resigned from the post in protest against Mrs May's divorce blueprint. Mr Raab said that he will be returning to Brussels for more negotiations on Thursday.

The UK should not make further concessions to the EU, according to Conservative politician Owen Paterson. He said on Sky that the current plan already prevents Britain from leaving in "a clean way" and that concerns about no deal are overblown. "We should be preparing for trade on World Trade Organization terms," he said. "I just don't see how it could be such a disaster." BLOOMBERG