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With May's agreement in balance, ministers warn against no-deal Brexit
[LONDON] Britain is more likely to leave the EU without a deal if lawmakers reject the agreement Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated, one of her ministers said on Thursday, while a second said a no-deal exit would hit the farming sector hard.
Brexit is scheduled for March 29 but, while Stephen Barclay and Michael Gove both warned against an unmanaged departure, what will actually happen on that day remains far from clear.
The future of Mrs May's agreement hangs in the balance in the run-up to a parliamentary vote, and calls for a second referendum - which she has consistently rejected - are growing.
"No deal will be far more likely if MPs (Members of Parliament) reject the government's Brexit deal," Brexit minister Barclay wrote in the Daily Express newspaper, arguing that Mrs May's plan was the only "workable deal" available.
Environment Minister Gove said British farmers and food firms would face rising costs in the event of no deal, as export tariffs kicked in and border inspections slowed traffic through ports.
Lawmakers must choose whether to accept Mrs May's plans for a structured exit and relatively close economic ties, or reject it and spawn huge uncertainty about the country's next steps. The vote is due in the week beginning Jan 14.
Mrs May is seeking extra reassurances from Brussels to help persuade sceptical lawmakers within her own party - and the small Northern Irish party that props up her minority government - to back her plan.
Within the opposition Labour Party, which has so far backed a negotiated exit but does not support Mrs May's deal, there is growing support for a second Brexit referendum. But the Guardian newspaper reported that its leader Jeremy Corbyn would resist such a policy change.
Britons voted by a narrow majority to leave the EU in June 2016.
Sterling has fallen against the dollar in recent weeks, in part due to growing concerns over the course of the Brexit process.
Mr Barclay, whose primary remit is to make sure Britain is ready in case a deal cannot be reached, said that next week the government would step up its campaign to make sure citizens are prepared for such an outcome.
"On Tuesday we will start a new phase in our public information campaign, using radio and social media to further raise awareness about the need to prepare," he wrote.
A new government website will contain advice on what no-deal preparations businesses, Britons, and EU nationals living in the country should make. Billboard advertisements for the website will appear in coming weeks.