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Britain heading towards a Brexit disaster, William Hague warns

The United Kingdom is heading towards a Brexit disaster unless Finance Minister Philip Hammond achieves a soft exit from the European Union, former Conservative Party leader William Hague has said.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph published on Tuesday, the former British foreign secretary wrote that a transitional deal is the only way to save Brexit from “an approaching disaster.”

He revealed that business leaders and politicians asked him the question “for months… everywhere I went abroad” if “we would lose heart” about leaving the EU.

“There is the clear potential for Brexit to become the occasion of the greatest economic, diplomatic and constitutional muddle in the modern history of the UK, with unknowable consequences for the country, the Government and the Brexit project itself,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Theresa May had called for a snap election in April in hopes of getting an increased parliamentary majority that could have strengthened her position before going into two years of intense negotiations with the European Union about Britain’s departure from the bloc.

However, British voters dealt her a devastating blow, wiping out her parliamentary majority and throwing the country into political turmoil. May was forced to seek a contentious deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party in a bid to cling to power.

The general election was held on June 8, nearly a year after 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Lord Hague had campaigned to remain a member of the European Union. He stepped down as foreign secretary in 2014, and left the House of Commons in 2015.

UK Finance Minister Philip Hammond arrives at Downing Street in London on July 12, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

“The electorate voted to leave the EU, and therefore we leave. What is more, the number of people who voted to do so was higher than the number of votes cast for any government in our history,” he wrote.

“To me and many of my former colleagues in government who preferred to remain, the argument was over,” he added.

Hague said that an approach is required that makes the Brexit negotiations simpler and includes staying in the single market during a transition period.

He praised Chancellor Hammond for seeking such an approach in the Brexit talks.

“This is seen by longstanding advocates of leaving as a ‘soft’ position or a climbdown. But in reality it is a plan to rescue Brexit from an approaching disaster,” Hague said.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at the end of March 2019. Immigration was one of the central topics of last year’s Brexit referendum.

Chancellor Hammond has that the Brexit transition could last until 2022 and the UK will try to keep as many aspects of its EU membership in place as possible.

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