UK Politics

Tory MP: Spend £1bn on 'no deal' Brexit planning

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The government should set aside at least £1bn in next month's Budget in case no deal can be agreed on Brexit, a Conservative MP says.

Charlie Elphicke said it was in the "national interest" for the cash to be spent on upgrading infrastructure like customs systems and borders.

This would "insure" against "things going wrong at the last minute" in the Brexit talks, he told MPs.

The government said it was spending £250m on Brexit preparations.

This includes the no-deal scenario, Brexit Minister Steve Baker said.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and five rounds of talks have yet to produce a breakthrough.

Discussions on a future trade relationship will not get the green light until December at the earliest.

Recently, talk has focused on what will happen if no deal is in place by the time the UK leaves.

Both sides say they are confident of a deal being reached, but Mr Elphicke, the MP for Dover who voted Remain in last year's referendum, dismissed suggestions his proposed £1bn would be "wasted" spending.

He went on: "This is no-regrets spending.

"We should have made this investment long ago. Our customs systems are creaking, our border systems are ageing, our roads are not resilient.

"In other words, this is investment we ought to make anyway."

He added: "At least £1bn should be allocated in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two."

Responding for the government in the adjournment debate, Mr Baker said ministers did not "want or expect a no-deal outcome, but we will be ready in any event".

He said the government was making "extensive preparations" for leaving the EU without a deal, but urged people not to be "alarmed" or "read into it any pessimism".

Brexit 'not a smart thing to do'

Meanwhile, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has criticised Brexit, saying it was the "stupidest thing any country has ever done" apart from the election of Donald Trump as US president.

In comments which have emerged from a tech conference in Boston earlier this month, the media mogul said: "It is seriously hard to understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it."

He claimed the UK did not have an immigration problem - "they had the English Channel, that gave them control of their borders".

He added: "It was not a smart thing to do, and getting out of it is going to be very difficult and it will be very painful."