U.K.’s Fox Hints He’d Be Willing to Accept a Delay to Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox suggested he could live with a delay to Brexit if more time is needed to implement a divorce agreement with the European Union.

“A delay because we’ve got a deal and want to implement it, that would be one thing,” Fox said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Wednesday. “But I think we can get a deal and implement it by 29 March.”

U.K.’s Fox Hints He’d Be Willing to Accept a Delay to Brexit

The fact Fox is not ruling out extending the Article 50 deadline beyond March 29 is significant because he has long been one of the most vocal pro-Brexit figures in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet. Fox is also a pragmatist, who has a history of accepting compromises -- even if they mean pushing back the moment when Britain finally leaves the jurisdiction of the EU.

In another Bloomberg interview in July 2017, Fox said he would be “happy” to accept a short transition period between the end of negotiations in 2019 and the time when a new U.K.-EU trade deal comes into force. Two months later, May announced this bridging period would be her policy.

In Wednesday’s interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Fox said his “suspicion” is that some people see extending the Article 50 process as a way to stop Brexit altogether.

Ultimately, Parliament might force May’s hand. Politicians from rival parties are working together to push a plan that could end up forcing an extension of Article 50 as a way of avoiding a potentially disastrous no-deal exit. The proposal now looks likely to get official backing from the main opposition Labour Party, meaning it has a real chance of becoming law.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.