‘No Deal' Would Create Two Brexit Losers, U.K.’s Clark Warns

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Failure to secure a deal on Brexit would send a “terrible’’ message to the rest of the world and make losers of both the U.K. and the European Union, Business Secretary Greg Clark said in an interview on Thursday as a summit ended on a downbeat note.

Prime Minister Theresa May met her EU counterparts in the Austrian city of Salzburg for discussions and there was, disappointingly, no progress in resolving how to keep an open border with Ireland after Brexit -- the thorniest issue still holding up a withdrawal agreement.

“It would be a shocking sign to the rest of the world if friends and neighbors who share so many of the same values, if we were not to be able to agree,’’ Clark told Bloomberg News in his hometown of Middlesbrough, northeast England. “The message that would send to a world in which the benefits of cooperation and agreement are being questioned, I think would be a terrible one. We all have a responsibility to turn our discussions into an agreement.’’

Manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover and BMW AG have stepped up warnings in recent days about the uncertainty caused by Brexit, which threatens their just-in-time manufacturing model.

No Deal?

The chance of Britain tumbling out of the bloc in March without a deal increasingly factors into their decisions, with BMW this week bringing forward a planned summer shutdown of its Oxford plant to April.

Clark said it’s incumbent on both sides to ensure that two years of at times tortuous negotiations culminate in a deal that protects businesses and ensures frictionless trade. He said while there are inevitably “comments to and fro,” his visits to national capitals around Europe show “very substantial engagement and good progress is being made.’’

“No deal would create two sets of losers,’’ he said. “The U.K. would lose, but so would the European Union, which is why it is strongly in our mutual interest to get an agreement.’’

Clark was in Middlesbrough for the groundbreaking of the 55 million-pound ($73 million) TeesAMP business park, which aims to attract advanced manufacturing to the northeast. He said Brexit shouldn’t deter investors, because the U.K. has a “strong reputation’’ already in industries of the future such as clean energy and electric cars.