Brexit ‘crisis’ on the cards, GMTC conference told

Brexit ‘crisis’ on the cards, GMTC conference told

A series of “pivotal” votes in Parliament this week will add to uncertainty on Brexit and lead into a fresh “crisis” later this month, a leading political commentator has warned corporate travel leaders.

Steve Richards, presenter of the BBC’s The Week in Westminster on Radio 4, told the Guild of Travel Management Companies’ (GTMC) conference in Ireland: “The Commons can’t agree on what should be proposed to the EU summit in June.

“Theresa May will probably present two options, EU leaders will reject both and it will be another moment of crisis.”

He said: “It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next hour let alone the next few months. [But] Europe has brought down three prime ministers – Thatcher, Major and Cameron – and May will be another.”

MPs vote this week on whether Parliament has the right to order the government to renegotiate Brexit if MPs reject an agreement presented in the autumn.

Richards said: “The June [EU] summit will not be decisive. We’ll move to October, [when] there has to be an agreement because the Brexit ratification process will take at least three to four months.

“May wants to be able to say to Parliament [in October], ‘Accept the deal or it’s no deal’. If she loses, May would have to go. British politics will be in paralysis if she loses.”

He added: “The clock is ticking yet nothing is in place. Will there be a sector-by-sector agreement on [EU] labour? Will there be a clear idea of the arrangements by October? I don’t believe there can be.

“May is going to have to ask for more time [for Brexit]. The government will say ‘We’ll sort out the detail in the transition period’.”

Richards suggested business should prepare for Britain to remain in the customs union but accept the UK will be outside the single market.

He told the GTMC: “There is a majority in the Commons for Britain to be part of the customs union, so one way or another it seems Britain will be in a customs union [with the EU].

“[But] it looks as if Britain will leave the single market and struggle to get anywhere near it.”

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