Hitchin and Harpenden MP clashes with BBC presenter over no-deal Brexit remark

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami speaking on Politics Live. Picture: BBC

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami speaking on Politics Live. Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

The member of Parliament for Hitchin and Harpenden clashed with a BBC presenter after she brought up a comment by the prime minister that suggested the chances of a no-deal Brexit were “absolutely zero”.

Speaking to Politics Live host Jo Coburn earlier today, Bim Afolami MP accused the host of getting her facts wrong in relation to Boris Johnson’s remark.

Mr Johnson had said during last year’s election campaign that the chances of Britain breaking away from the EU at the end of 2020 without a trade agreement in place were “absolutely zero”.

But, the UK risks crashing out of the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31 if it does not clinch a deal by then.

Picking up on the quote, Coburn asked the MP: “It’s something, isn’t it, to be 22 days away from the end of the transition period on December 31 and the chances of no-deal being rather high and that’s despite Boris Johnson saying there was ‘zero chance’ of no-deal with the EU during the election campaign last year?”

Mr Afolami attempted to correct Coburn, claiming the comment referred to the Withdrawal Agreement, which was implemented earlier this year.

“No, no, no, he was saying there was ‘zero chance’ of no trade deal,” she asserted.

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“He talked about the Withdrawal Agreement beforehand but then he said that because he had been successful in striking that withdrawal agreement that there would be zero chance of us leaving the transition period without a deal.”

Afolami implored: “It is tricky. It is getting to the wire but the examination of history negotiating with the EU, or from within the EU, from all sorts of countries, tells us things tend to move at the very last moment and that very last moment has shifted to Sunday.”

Mr Afolami accepted a trade deal was “the best outcome” for both sides, leading Coburn to probe him as to why Johnson had made the comment.

The backbencher replied: “Well, it doesn’t look like that now but we’ve still got some way to run. Let’s just see where we get to.”

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson took the decision to travel to Brussels himself for last-minute showdown talks with Ursula von der Leyden, the President of the EU Commission.

Several media outlets are reporting that there are still “significant gaps” between the UK and EU in terms of agreeing on any Brexit deal before the forthcoming deadline.