Sir Vince Cable says prospect of no Brexit is 'becoming very real'
Politicians, civil servants and voters are increasingly thinking Britain will not leave the European Union despite Theresa May's attempts to form a "very British" Brexit grand coalition with Labour, Sir Vince Cable has said.
Sir Vince, who is on course to become the next Liberal Democrat leader, said "enormous" difficulties will become apparent during exit negotiations which will amount to "Euratom times a hundred".
Mrs May's desire to leave the European civil nuclear regulator has been the subject of a row among Tories in recent days, despite previously being treated as a minor issue.
"More and more people, politicians and civil servants (are) saying actually this thing isn't going to happen and it's based on several things," Sir Vince told a Westminster lunch.
"I think the sheer enormous complexity and difficulty, and then something like Euratom... an issue that nobody had thought about, but we've got Euratom times a hundred out there and nobody can see a way through that."
The former business secretary said the EU is now in a strengthened political position with the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president, while the UK faces economic troubles with a short term credit bubble ending and "terrible" data from the car manufacturing sector, which is highly reliant on cross-EU supply chains.
He went on: "So when you add all that together you start to ask the question well how can this possibly happen?
"I'm not putting my reputation as Mystic Meg on the line in saying I'm absolutely confident it would happen, but I think the possibility of this just not getting any further is now becoming very real."
Sir Vince said the only prospect of a so-called "hard Brexit" outside the single market and customs union happening is if Mrs May succeeds in "reaching out" to Labour to get tricky legislation like the EU Repeal Bill through Parliament.
"One interpretation that you can put on Theresa May's reaching out yesterday was an attempt to create a very British kind of German grand coalition," he said.
"Of course it's ludicrously implausible to imagine Mr Corbyn going to the Rose Garden and signing up as deputy prime minister but nonetheless there is a coalition of interest on the big issue of the day.
"And if they are determined to discipline their own parties and force through this hard Brexit option of course that's the thing that will make it happen.
"As far as my party is concerned that leaves us in the right and politically in a very strong position."