WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain’s new Brexit deal has a “decent chance” of clearing parliament on Saturday and the alternative is to leave the European Union in two weeks’ time without anything to soften the economic shock, finance minister Sajid Javid said.
Javid rejected calls from some members of parliament for an economic impact assessment of the agreement struck by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU earlier on Thursday which now needs approval by lawmakers.
Instead, he said, parliament had to realize that the plan would end the uncertainty that has dogged the world’s fifth-biggest economy since voters decided to leave the EU in 2016.
“It is self-evident that what we have achieved in terms of this deal is the right way forward for the economy, much better than any alternative,” Javid told reporters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank fall meetings.
Furthermore, Brexit was not just a debate about economics, he said.
“This is also an issue about the fabric of our democracy. People want to see Brexit done. They overwhelmingly prefer to see that done with a good deal and that is what we have achieved,” Javid said.
Lawmakers opposed to Brexit have warned that the prime minister’s plan will hurt the economy.
Last year, Britain’s finance ministry estimated that the hit to growth from a free trade deal with the EU, similar to Johnson’s plan, would be greater than the impact of closer ties proposed by former prime minister Theresa May.
Asked about the Treasury’s research, Javid said it was based on assumptions that did not necessarily apply to the new deal which offered the most promise for striking trade agreements with countries around the world.
Johnson has said he will take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31, if necessary without a transition deal.
However, British lawmakers have passed legislation that they say would force a Brexit delay rather than a no-deal Brexit.
Javid said he saw a “decent chance” the plan would clear parliament, despite the opposition of a Northern Irish party which has been a key ally of Johnson.
Javid also said the search for the next Bank of England governor was on track and was going “very, very smoothly.”
“I think the most important thing for me is I really, crucially value the independence of the Bank of England and I want someone who values that too and will be independent-minded,” he said, declining to comment further.
On his budget plans, Javid said he believed interest rates would be low for a long time and he reiterated that he was looking at how to take advantage of cheap borrowing costs to increase long-term productive public investment.
“I traded bonds markets for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” the former Deutsche Bank managing director said, explaining why he is considering new fiscal rules that are expected to relax the government’s grip on the public finances.