No-deal Brexit should not be contemplated, says Business Secretary

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Business Secretary Greg Clark has insisted a no-deal Brexit “should not be contemplated”, as the Government steps up its preparations.

The Cabinet minister told MPs he has always been clear on the need to avoid leaving the EU without a deal given his role in representing the views of small and large businesses.

Mr Clark’s remarks came in the Commons after he was challenged by shadow business minister Chi Onwurah to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

She described the Government’s lorry park trial run in Kent as a “ghost of Brexit future pantomime of the chaos to come” if no agreement is secured.

Shadow business minister Chi Onwurah addresses the Commons (PA)

She asked Mr Clark to reassure firms which are “stockpiling parts” that he will “rule out a no-deal Brexit”.

Mr Clark said he understood the requirements of business, telling the Commons: “It is essential that we should be able to continue to trade.

“It’s why I’ve always been clear, representing very strongly the views of small business and large business, that no-deal should not be contemplated.”

Mr Clark said no-deal could be avoided by MPs supporting Theresa May’s Brexit deal next week.

He later defended a ferry contract for a no-deal Brexit situation being awarded to Seaborne Freight, amid questions from the SNP.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been widely criticised for giving a £14 million contract to Seaborne Freight.

SNP transport spokesman Drew Hendry asked whether a precedent had been set for UK businesses by awarding a contract to a company with no ships, “negative assets of nearly £400,000” and “terms and conditions copied from a takeaway”.

Mr Hendry continued: “Will all UK businesses see such largesse from the Government over procurement contracts?

“One of the directors of Seaborne ran a company which went into liquidation owing HMRC nearly £600,000 using EBT (Employee Benefit Trust) tax avoidance schemes.

Greg Clark
Mr Clark answered questions in the Commons (PA)

Mr Clark said it was “prudent and responsible” for the Government to prepare contingency plans for no-deal, but he hoped opposition MPs would “take the opportunity to obviate the need for those contingencies”.

He added: “He, I hope, would agree that every Government department should make preparations against the avoidable contingency of no-deal.

“The procurement processes that the Department for Transport went for, the secretary of state will describe.

“Of course, it’s fair to observe that not a penny of Government money has been paid to this company and will only be paid, as I understand it, on receipt of services provided.”

Mr Clark later told MPs: “Advice and support is available to businesses right across the UK but it remains the case that the best certainty that business can have is to know that the agreement that has been reached with the EU, that rules out no-deal, that involves a substantial transition period should be approved next week in the House of Commons and I hope he will support that.”

His comments came in response to a question from the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) urging the Government not to reject the SNP’s proposal for a £750 million small business support scheme to help them prepare for Brexit.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) also warned the aerospace industry would “face ruin” if the Government pressed ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

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