British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a grilling on her draft Brexit deal on Thursday, during which she suggested that if MPs vote down the agreement, planning will begin for a "no deal" scenario.
May was repeatedly questioned by members of the Commons Liason Committee on the likelihood of a no deal Brexit, in light of reports on Wednesday from the Bank of England and the government, which warned of major economic consequences.
"The decision that the House of Commons will take on the 11th of December will be whether to support, whether to ratify, the deal that the United Kingdom government has negotiated with the European Union," May said.
"If the House votes down that deal at that point, then there will be some steps that will be necessary because obviously, we've been doing no deal planning as a government."
Pressed again, May said: "The timetable is such that actually, some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to no deal if the parliament were to vote down the deal".
However, Labour MP Yvette Cooper later said she did not believe that May would allow a no deal.
"Knowing you from 20 years, I just don’t believe that if your deal goes down, you are the kind of person who would contemplate taking this country into a no deal situation. Am I wrong?" she said.
The Bank of England report on Wednesday warned that the UK's economy could shrink by 8% in the event of a "disorderly" no deal Brexit, while the Treasury said this scenario would have the biggest economic impact on the economy in the long term.
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Fielding questions on how Brexit would impact the supply of medicines in the UK and whether the possibility of severe restrictions following a no deal exit was "keeping you up at night," May insisted that she would seek to negotiate wide-ranging access to the European Medicines Agency — which does not allow third country membership — during the transition period.
The transition period will kick in on March 29, 2019, when the UK officially leaves the bloc. It is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020.
During that time the UK will continue to enjoy the benefits of EU membership and will have to abide by EU legislation, but it will lose its influence over the bloc's decision-making process.
It was designed to allow time for further negotiations on the future relationship between the two parties. However, there is no transition period if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.
The decision on whether the UK gets more time to negotiate access to some crucial EU-wide services, May told the Committee, is therefore not in her hands anymore but "is going to be taken on December 11 by the House of Commons."
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The prime minister refuted that her statement amounted to "a threat" but doubled down with: "Those are exactly the sort of issues that members may be thinking about."
"It's that implementation period that allows that smooth and orderly exit," she added.
May also dismissed calls for a second referendum, arguing it would "severely damage" the views on democracy of those who participated in the June 2016 Brexit vote.
She argued that a vote on the deal she secured could not be held before March 29, 2019, and that extending Article 50 to allow for a vote would lead to the Withdrawal Agreement being reopened.
"What is clear is that any extension to Article 50, anything like that, reopens negotiations, reopens the deal," May said.
"We would simply find ourselves in a period of more uncertainty and more division in this country," she added.
British MPs are to debate the draft Brexit deal for five days with the vote scheduled on December 11.
May faces an uphill battle to get the deal approved, with many within her own Conservative ranks having indicated that they would vote against it and so has Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, whose support May's minority government relies on to pass legislation.
Opposition parties including Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats have also said they would oppose the deal.