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Risks of no-deal Brexit can be managed by government, says Rudd

Work and pensions secretary had stated in March she believed no deal would ‘do generational damage’ to UK

Amber Rudd has said she believes the risks of a no-deal Brexit are no more than a challenge that can be countered by government action, going back on her previous assessment in which she said it would cause “generational damage” to the UK.

The work and pensions secretary, who kept her job when Boris Johnson became prime minister by renouncing her previously resolute opposition to no deal, said she still believed this would be much less preferable than a managed Brexit.

Rudd told ITV News: “I can tell that a no-deal Brexit would be far worse than a deal Brexit, which is why the government is so focused on trying to get that. But we’re also putting in place a lot of preparations to make sure that should it come to that, we will have done all we can to mitigate against any difficulties.”

Asked if no deal would bring a further rise in unemployment after new jobless figures showed a rise on Tuesday, “It’s very difficult to tell,” Rudd said.

She added: “A no-deal Brexit is definitely going to be a challenge for the economy, which is why the government is putting together so much preparation, should it come to that. And we’re very clearly focused as a government that we want to get a deal.”

In January, Rudd had threatened to resign from the government if she was not allowed a free vote on backbench amendments intended to stop no deal, eventually abstaining on the issue.

In a subsequent letter to constituents in March, Rudd said she abstained because she believed no deal would “do generational damage to our economy and security”.

Rudd had joined with her then-cabinet colleagues David Gauke and Greg Clark to force Theresa May to take no deal off the table and stop the UK crashing out at the end of March.

But she began to change her position shortly before Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt to become the new Conservative leader and prime minister. At the time she told TalkRadio: “Both candidates have said that no deal is part of the armoury going forward, and I have accepted that.”

Asked on Tuesday if she could guarantee that a no-deal departure would not cause job losses, Rudd replied: “There are no guarantees about jobs, in or out, under any economic circumstances. What government has to do is to make it as straightforward and as conducive to a good employment arena as possible.”

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