LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May has said that failing to secure a deal with the European Union before Britain leaves the bloc next year “wouldn’t be the end of the world”, Sky News reported on Tuesday.
May’s comment, made to reporters as she headed to Africa to boost Britain’s trade ties ahead of Brexit in March 2019, came after her Chancellor Philip Hammond said last week that a no-deal departure from the EU would damage public finances.
Ahead of her arrival in South Africa, May said the forecasts cited by Hammond were out of date.
“I think when they came out I was very clear on a previous trip that those figures were a work in progress at that particular time,” she said according to Sky.
She repeated comments from the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that Britain leaving the EU without a deal “would not be a walk in the park” but that “it would not be the end of the world”, Sky said.
Hammond was criticised by some lawmakers in May’s deeply divided Conservative Party for saying last week — on the day the government published contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit — that such a scenario could mean borrowing would be about 80 billion pounds a year higher in 15 years’ time as the economy grew more slowly.
May is hoping to a agree “business-friendly” deal with the bloc on the key issue of trade which has split her party between those who want a definitive break from the EU, and those, like Hammond, who want to keep close ties.
However, in her comments to reporters on her way to Africa, May repeated her warning that a no-deal Brexit was better than leaving with a bad deal.
“I think it’s absolutely that the government is preparing for no deal because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” she said.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by William Schomberg