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Britain plans for all options as Brexit nears
[LONDON] Britain is drawing up contingency plans in case its Brexit negotiations with the EU fail, a minister said Sunday as speculation mounted that the withdrawal process could start this week.
Brexit minister David Davis said it was in "everybody's interests that we get a good outcome", but said the government was "planning for the contingency, all the various outcomes".
He was speaking after MPs warned that ministers must prepare for the possibility that, with EU treaties allowing just two years to agree a new relationship, Britain might well leave without a deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is optimistic about settling the divorce and a new trade agreement with the EU within the timeframe, but would walk away rather than accept a bad deal.
The cross-party parliamentary foreign affairs committee said this "represents a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK", citing economic losses and legal confusion.
Mr Davis told the BBC he did not think that was "remotely likely", adding: "There will be tough points in this negotiation. But it's in absolutely everybody's interests that we get a good outcome."
The MPs noted that the previous government had not prepared for the shock vote to leave the EU in the June referendum, something they called "gross negligence".
"Making an equivalent mistake would constitute a serious dereliction of duty by the present administration," they said in the report.
A bill empowering Mrs May to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty and begin the withdrawal process returns to the House of Commons on Monday for debate.
Without further opposition, it could pass the House of Lords that night.
After it is rubber-stamped by Queen Elizabeth II, Mrs May could start Brexit at any point.
Asked when the process might start, Mr Davis noted that "in theory it's the point at which you have royal assent", but refused to confirm a date.
"Each date has different implications in terms of when it can be responded to by the Council (of EU leaders)," he said.
One factor could be the Dutch elections on Wednesday.
Keir Starmer, the Brexit spokesman for the opposition Labour party, repeated to Sky News that he expected the government to start Brexit "probably on Wednesday or Thursday".