Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the UK has faced “bigger challenges” than Brexit in the past and will “survive” the process.
His comments came after a leaked letter from NHS Providers, which represents hospital and ambulance services, warned that hospitals face running out of medicines if a chaotic no-deal Brexit were to transpire.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, in a letter to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, set out how a hard Brexit or no deal could negatively affect “the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals” and “jeopardise” the EU citizens making up the “workforce on which the NHS relies”.
Mr Hunt, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, admitted the chance of a no deal was “not negligible” and warned that the consequences of an “acrimonious, messy divorce” would be “terrible for the EU project”.
But “whatever the outcome” of the negotiations, Mr Hunt said he was confident the UK could manage, adding: “We will find a way whatever the outcome to survive and prosper.”
He earlier told the programme he was “cautiously optimistic” the UK would get a Brexit deal “in the end”.
Mr Hunt said: “The challenge we have is that for EU countries there is a tension between their heart and their head. In their hearts they want to give Britain a good deal because they know how important we have been for the security and prosperity of Europe in the post-war period.
“But in their heads they’re worried that if they give us a good deal other countries will follow suit.”
He added that the Government under Theresa May’s leadership would “never sign up to a deal that is not consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the referendum” as doing so would be “absolutely fatal for the UK”.
The intervention comes as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab heads to Brussels for the latest round of negotiations with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, which a Downing Street spokesman said would be “resolving the few remaining withdrawal issues”.
On Thursday, the Government will publish the first of a series of technical notices, designed to help people and businesses prepare for a no-deal scenario.
Mr Raab will also give a speech outlining how the Government plans to mitigate the potential risks of leaving the EU without a deal and ensure continuity and stability.
The issue of EU nationals’ residency will not be among more than 80 no-deal technical notices to be issued over the coming weeks.
Ending freedom of movement after Brexit risks 100,000 fewer adult social care workers by 2026, the think tank Global Future warned, as currently 17% of social care staff in England, or 220,000, are from overseas.