British prime minister says no-deal Brexit would not be a disaster

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May poses with school children during a visit to the ID Mkhize Secondary School in Gugulethu, about 15km from the centre of Cape Town, as part of a working visit to South Africa, on August 28, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Rodger BOSCH

Prime Minister Theresa May indicated Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit would not be a disaster for Britain, playing down warnings of serious consequences for the UK economy.

May said she was confident of striking an acceptable new deal with Brussels as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March.

She cited WTO director general Roberto Azevedo as she made her case.

“Look at what the director of the World Trade Organization has said,” she told British media on her tour of Africa.

“He said about a no-deal situation that it would not be a walk in the park but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

Her government last week outlined its preparations for a no-deal scenario.

“What the government is doing is putting in place the preparations such that if we’re in that situation we can make a success of it, just as we will make a success of the good deal I believe we’re able to get and the good deal we’re working to get,” she said.

London and Brussels have yet to reach an agreement on the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc.

British lawmakers are split on May’s proposals to keep Britain close to the EU on trade — parts of which have since been rejected by Brussels.

London and Brussels hope to strike a deal by October, to allow its ratification by the European and British parliaments before Britain leaves the EU.

Last week, British finance minister Philip Hammond warned a no-deal Brexit could have “large fiscal consequences” on productivity and borrowing.

And Alexander Winterstein, a European Commission spokesman, said the bloc was focused on achieving Britain’s “orderly withdrawal” but “preparing for all possible outcomes”.

“The withdrawal of the UK is going to lead to disruption regardless — with a deal or without a deal,” he said.

May was asked about whether she would instruct her Conservative lawmakers to support a no-deal Brexit if her blueprint falls through.

“I’ve said right from the beginning that no deal is better than a bad deal,” she said.