Fox says would be surprised if EU refuses to renegotiate Brexit terms

Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox is seen outside Downing Street, as uncertainty over Brexit continues, in London, Britain May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

CAIRO (Reuters) - British trade minister Liam Fox said on Tuesday he would be surprised if the European Union did not agree to attempts to renegotiate the country’s exit deal, and that it was up to both sides to avoid a no-deal exit.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who failed three times to get the deal approved by parliament, has said she will resign on June 7 and several of those vying to replace her have said they plan to seek changes to the agreement.

“If the EU doesn’t want to negotiate any changes - which I think would be unfortunate and I think would be quite surprising - then I think that of course does increase the chance of a no deal exit,” Fox said during a trade visit to Egypt.

Fox was in Egypt after Bombardier, which has a manufacturing base in Britain, was named as the preferred bidder for a 3 billion euro ($3.35 billion) monorail in Egypt.

Britain is due to leave the EU with or without a deal on Oct. 31, and the EU has repeatedly said its position is not open for renegotiation.

But, Fox said: “It’s in everybody’s interests that we try to find a compromise agreement that enables us to leave with stability, with predictability for our European partners as well as for the UK itself.”

Fox, a long-standing Brexit advocate who supported May’s deal, said he had not made up his mind on who to support in the leadership contest - a race which has so far centred on whether candidates are prepared to pursue a no-deal exit if necessary.

Asked about the different candidates’ views on no-deal, he said: “What is clear is that leaving without a deal is better than not leaving at all. That, I think is where there is common ground in the leadership of the Conservative Party.”

Reporting by Aidan Lewis, writing by William James in London, Editing by Kylie MacLellan