- “Many thousands of jobs” will be lost if the next prime minister delivers a no-deal Brexit, Greg Clark warns.
- The Business Secretary said “everyone knows” that leaving the EU without a deal in October would inflict huge damage on many sectors and destroy thousands of jobs.
- Prime ministerial candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have said they will take the UK out of the EU without a Brexit deal if necessary.
- Johnson, the strong favourite to replace Theresa May, has said leaving on October 31 is “do or die” and played down the potential impact of a no-deal exit as “vanishingly inexpensive.”
- There is growing concern that neither the government or business will be ready for a no-deal exit on Halloween.
Leaving the European Union without a deal in later this year will destroy “many thousands of jobs” in the United Kingdom, the Business Secretary Greg Clark has warned.
Boris Johnson, the strong favourite to replace May, has promised to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 “do or die,” and claimed this week that a no-deal Brexit would be “vanishingly inexpensive.”
However, when asked by Sky News on Friday how many jobs would be lost as a result of leaving the EU without a deal later this year, Clark said: “It’s many thousands of jobs. Everyone knows that.”
He added: “I think that every person who considers the evidence that companies have given, whether it’s in the automotive sector, whether it’s in the food sector, whether it’s in aerospace, whether it’s in industries up and down the country.
“You know if you become less efficient and your ability to trade is impeded then of course losing your competitiveness means that there will be jobs that will be lost.”
- READ: The UK government’s no-deal Brexit preparations are “not happening quickly enough”
- MORE: Almost half of Brits are stockpiling food, medicine and clothes as UK heads for a no-deal exit
Clark warned May’s successor that it was “hugely important” to leave the EU with a deal as failing to do so would “harm” the livelihoods of people across the country.
“In talking to businesses one of the things that most strikes me talking to men and women on the shop floor, working on production lines, their incomes and their livelihoods and those of their families depends on [a deal],” he said.
“Everyone accepts this is a very difficult challenge.
“When the country voted to leave the EU of course there is a requirement to implement that but I think we need to do it in a way that takes full account of the impact on real people’s lives and do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t visit harm on them.”
Clark, who is tipped to lose his senior government position if Johnson becomes prime minister, told Sky News that he would “strain every sinew to avoid” a no-deal Brexit.
This suggests he could join the group of Conservative MPs who are preparing to vote against the government and support legislation designed to prevent a no-deal exit, if he becomes a backbench MP.
Anti-Brexit campaigners said Clark’s warning should be a wake-up call to Johnson about the cost of Brexit.
“Brexit zealots like Johnson don’t seem care that many thousands of people will lose their jobs,” Naomi Smith, CEO of Best For Britain, told Business Insider.
“Brexit is an attack by market fundamentalists on the most vulnerable in our society. Our politicians have a duty to protect people’s livelihoods. That’s why we need to stop Brexit.”
Clark’s latest warning about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit comes amid growing concern about the country’s lack of readiness for this outcome.
The Public Accounts Committee of MPs warned this week that the government’s preparation was “not happening quickly enough” and was not on track to be ready in time for October 31.
Senior business figures have told Business Insider that smaller businesses who spent hundreds of thousands of pounds preparing for no-deal exit in March are much more reluctant to do so this time around.
Joe Owen, a researcher at the Institute For Government think tank, told Business Insider that businesses were more sceptical about the need to prepare for a no-deal exit, having “seen government cry wolf twice before.”
“They’ll be seeing Boris saying the odds of no deal are a million to one against and MPs saying they want to stop no deal – that’s the stuff that will stick,” Owen said.
“They are saying ‘we’ve been here before and it didn’t happen, why would we spend money again doing it?'”