A no-deal Brexit would not be a disaster, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has insisted.
Dr Fox said that reactions to Whitehall analysis showing that withdrawing from the EU without an agreement would have severe economic consequences had been “overblown”.
The comments came as Prime Minister Theresa May tried to rally support for her deal by telling MPs to think of the needs of their constituents.
With Mrs May facing a tough challenge to get Parliament to approve her agreement in a crunch vote on December 11, a cross-party group of MPs has tabled an amendment to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Asked about a no-deal scenario, Dr Fox told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I think, as Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, said, it wouldn’t be a disaster, but it wouldn’t be a walk in the park either.”
He added: “I think that the reactions to some of the Treasury analysis have been completely overblown.”
Dr Fox, who insisted that Mrs May was “changing the public mood”, appeared to suggest that some of his Cabinet colleagues may still vote against the PM’s Brexit deal.
Asked if he thought the whole Cabinet would back the deal in the Commons, Dr Fox said: “I think members of the Cabinet will vote for the deal.”
But hinting at potential further resignations from Mrs May’s top team over Brexit, he added: “Members of the Cabinet who don’t vote for the deal won’t be members of the Cabinet.”
With reports that up to 100 Tory MPs are ready to vote against the Brexit deal, Mrs May called for support in order to avoid “division and uncertainty”.
Speaking as she travelled to the G20 economic summit in Argentina, the PM said: “A divided country is not a country that prospers.”
Mrs May also accused Labour of pushing the UK towards a damaging no-deal Brexit by seeking to block her deal without offering a workable alternative.
In a bid to prevent a no-deal exit, Labour’s Hilary Benn has tabled an amendment to the Government Brexit motion with cross-party support including prominent Tory Sarah Wollaston.
The amendment also calls for the Commons to be able to express its views about what should happen if Mrs May’s deal is voted down.
The PM said a defeat in the Commons in would mean “there will be decisions to be taken by Government and by business in relation to the practical preparations they would be looking to make for no-deal.”
She added: “The focus of myself and the Government is on the vote taking place on December 11. We will be telling MPs why we believe this is a good deal for the UK because it is a deal that delivers on the Brexit vote.”
However, arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has written in the Daily Telegraph of an effort to “frighten and to gull (people) into acquiescing to a non-Brexit Brexit”.
He added: “(The) Withdrawal Agreement contradicts its previous and clear policies, while its spokesmen insist that the reverse is true.
“In the 2017 manifesto, the Conservatives said that the country would leave the single market and the customs union.
“The backstop and the proposed treaty keep the whole of the UK in the customs union, which allows the EU to set tax rates, with Northern Ireland in the single market too.
“There was no footnote listing these exceptions. The promises were clear and have been broken.”
Dr Fox, who has given his backing to Mrs May’s deal, is using a speech on Friday to appeal for unity and support for the PM’s stance.