Delaying or cancelling Brexit would be a “calamitous” breach of trust with the electorate and worse than leaving the EU with no deal, Liam Fox has said.
The Brexiteer minister told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme MPs pushing for a delay actually wanted to stop Brexit.
But he said this was the “worst outcome” of the current wrangles.
MPs are proposing alternative plans to the PM’s deal with the EU, including seeking an extension to the UK’s exit date – it is due to leave on 29 March.
But the prime minister has said the “right way” to rule out no-deal Brexit is to approve her withdrawal agreement.
Liam Fox said MPs should think about the “political consequences” of delaying Brexit not just the “short-term economic consequences”.
“There is no doubt that leaving with a deal and minimising disruption both to the UK and our EU trading partners is in our best interest,” the international development secretary said.
“But I think the most calamitous outcome would be for Parliament, having promised to respect the result of the referendum, to turn around and say it wouldn’t.”
Under current law, the UK will exit the EU on 29 March, whether or not a deal has been struck. The decision to leave was taken by 52% to 48% in a referendum in June 2016.
Osborne’s ‘Russian roulette’ warning
Former Chancellor George Osborne has said delaying the UK’s exit from the EU was now the “most likely” option.
Speaking to BBC business editor Simon Jack in Davos, Mr Osborne said that the prospect of no-deal meant “the gun is held to the British economy’s head”.
“Russian roulette is a game which you should never play because there’s a one-in-six chance that the bullet goes into your head,” he said.
Mr Osborne, who was sacked by Mrs May when she became prime minister after the referendum, said his successor Philip Hammond had “sensibly” told businesses that leaving without a deal was not a possibility.
“But we now need to hear it from the British prime minister,” he said.