A deal with the EU can be reached by October but the UK is preparing for the possibility of no deal, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said. Raab is expected on Thursday in Brussels for further talks and pledged to strain “every sinew” to get “the best deal”. But, the government had plans in place in case talks did not end well, he admitted in an interview with BBC.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there must be a serious stepping up of negotiations to avoid no deal.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree how trade will work between the UK and the EU afterwards.
Theresa May hopes the government's plan, detailed recently in the Brexit White Paper, will allow the two sides to reach a deal on relations by the autumn.
Downing Street said on Sunday that cabinet ministers would be promoting the plan across Europe over the summer. Theresa May would take the lead by meeting the Austrian chancellor, Czech prime minister and Estonian prime minister next week.
Mrs May said: We must step up the pace of negotiations and get on to deliver a good deal that will bring greater prosperity and security to both British and European citizens. We both know the clock is ticking - let's get on with it.
Mr Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show if the energy, ambition and pragmatism the UK brought to negotiations was reciprocated, a deal would be done in October. He noted that 80% of the withdrawal agreement was already settled.
And he said it was useful that EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had raised questions about the prime minister's blueprint for the UK's future trading relationship with the EU.
The fact Michel Barnier is not blowing it out of the water but asking questions is a good, positive sign - that's what we negotiate on.
But he said preparations such as hiring extra border staff were being made because any responsible government would make sure plans were in place in case negotiations failed.
Technical notices would be released for businesses and citizens affected during the summer to be very clear about what they should do and what we are doing on their behalf he added.
Asked about European Commission comments that there were no arrangements in place for UK and EU expats in the event of no deal, Mr. Raab said: Well, I think that's a rather irresponsible thing to be coming from the other side.
We ought to be trying to reassure citizens on the continent and also here. There is obviously an attempt to try and ramp up the pressure.
He added that the prospect of people being removed from the UK was far-fetched and fanciful and said it would be frankly irrational for the EU to go for the worst case scenario of no deal.
But the UK had to be prepared with things like allocating money, preparing treaty relations, and hiring extra border staff so that Britain can thrive, whatever happens, he said.
Earlier, Mr. Raab suggested to the Sunday Telegraph that he was still persuading other cabinet ministers that the government's pragmatic strategy for leaving the EU was the best plan” and that the UK could refuse to pay its so-called divorce bill, a payment from the UK to the EU estimated to be about £39bn, if it does not get a trade deal.