07:27, February 16 150 0 theguardian.com

2019-02-16 07:27:06
David Gauke expresses 'grave concerns' about no-deal Brexit

The justice secretary has said he has grave concerns about the prospect of leaving the European Union without a deal, saying it would have a “very adverse effect” on the UK’s economy, security and union with Northern Ireland.

David Gauke said the government was planning for the contingency of no deal, but suggested he would support extending article 50 if a deal between the UK and EU was not reached, since a no-deal Brexit was not in the national interest. He added that he expected the government to act responsibly if the current deadlock prevailed.

“I think the idea of leaving without a deal on 29 March would be one that would have a very adverse effect, to put it mildly, on our economy, on our security and on the integrity of the union,” Gauke said, “and I think my position on that is very clear”.

Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he hoped it would be made clear in the next 10 days that the UK was in a position to leave with a deal on 29 March. “If not, then we will have to, in my view, act responsibly and make sure that this country, the economy is protected, our security is protected and the integrity of the union is protected,” Gauke said.

He has previously suggested Brexit might have to be delayed beyond the scheduled exit date, and that he would find it very difficult to remain in Theresa May’s government if the UK appeared to be on course to crash out of the EU without a deal.

“I would hope and expect that the government would act responsibly and consider the situation. I hope that by the time we get to [the next round of Commons votes on 27 February] that there will have been a deal reached with the European Union and the House of Commons.

“If not, I think my position is very clear and I think the consequences of leaving without a deal would not be in the national interest.”

On Saturday, the government began running a series of adverts in local and national newspapers and websites as part of a campaign to explain what leaving the EU will mean for citizens and businesses.

In the interview, Gauke was also questioned over a highly critical HM inspectorate report about privatised probation services. The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said that probation staff in the south-west were classifying offenders as low-risk just to meet government targets, grossly misclassifying the risk they posed to society.

The company providing the services was criticised for allowing business imperatives to trump the quality of the service delivered in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, which the inspectorate ranked as inadequate, warning that similar practices could be presented in other regions of the UK.

“Effort is focused disproportionately on reducing the risk of any further contractual (financial) penalty,” Glenys said. “For some professional staff, workloads are unconscionable. Most seriously, we have found professional ethics compromised and immutable lines crossed because of business imperatives.”

Gauke recognised the “damning” nature of the report and said the practices were unacceptable. However, he rejected the suggestion that the partial privatisation of probation services had been a failure.

The provider, Working Links, an employment and probation company owned by an asset management group based in Germany, went into administration on Friday after its owner, Aurelius, announced last week it was selling the remaining parts of its public-sector businesses in the UK.

Gauke also announced the establishment of a new privately run scheme, Tags for Offenders, which will allow for the 24-hour GPS monitoring of offenders’ location.