No deal Brexit still ‘unlikely’ GTMC told

Business travel leaders have been warned to expect a “seismic autumn” and told “it won’t be the end” of Brexit.

However, political commentator and BBC broadcaster Steve Richards told the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) conference: “No deal is unlikely.”

Conservative MP James Heappey suggested: “The most likely outcome is Theresa May gets the last laugh, watching something like her deal go through.”

Outlining possible scenarios around Britain’s planned EU leave date of October 31, Richards told the GTMC: “The outcome is unclear, when what you ache for is clarity.

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“It will be the most seismic autumn of our lives. What is certain, whatever happens by October 31, is it won’t be the end, just the beginning.”

He told the conference in Noordwijk, outside Amsterdam: “I thought I would never say ‘Boris Johnson will be next prime minister’.

“He is known to have lied many times. He has been disloyal. He has got things wrong.

“But a majority of Conservative Party members would be willing see Scotland go, Northern Ireland go and the Tory party split to get Brexit.

“Boris has made clear he does not want no deal, yet he has said: ‘By October 31, we’re out.’ A lot of MPS on both sides think the chances of Britain crashing out with no deal are growing by the minute.

“But it’s unlikely. If it looks as though we are propelling towards no deal, the Speaker of the Commons [John Bercow] will facilitate a vote to take no deal off the table.

“Most Labour MPs, even those who want Brexit, are against no deal, as are a lot of Tory MPs. There will be enough for the Commons to block no deal.”

Richards told GTMC leaders: “Boris will not want to begin his premiership with no deal. He says he will renegotiate the deal, but there isn’t time even if there was the inclination. The option is not there.”

He said: “There is another possibility. May’s Withdrawal Agreement is the only one on the table. Boris renegotiates a couple of sentences and says, ‘It’s renegotiated’.

“But it would be hard for him to sell the deal to the DUP and Brexit hardliners and that would have seismic consequences.

“The alternative is a general election or a second referendum. Lots of those at Westminster think a general election is imminent, perhaps as early as September. But it is risky. Boris has ached to be prime minister, is he going to risk throwing it away?

“It would be a no-deal election and would begin with senior Tory Party figures refusing to campaign for it. A referendum would be safer, but it would overturn everything Boris has said on it.

“If it is May’s deal, we’ll have a relatively stable period for two years. That is what Boris wants – stability while the rest is sorted out.”

Heappey, MP for Wells and parliamentary private secretary to transport secretary Chris Grayling, told the GTMC: “I’m a Remainer who voted for May’s deal three times.

“Why am I backing Boris? My constituency voted to leave. The anger is extraordinary. People feel ignored and patronised. Our democracy is in grave danger.

“People say the cost of no deal is bad. I’m certain the cost of no deal is worse. There is a total breakdown of confidence in Parliament.

“Steve is right about Boris’s fallibility and past record, but Boris brings colour and the public are looking for that.”

He argued: “There is a reasonable chance we’ll leave on October 31. There is a mood to get it done. MPs want this over. If the moment arises to do this, people will take it.”

But Richards insisted: “I can’t see how Boris will get it through.”

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