Exclusive: Academics Do Not Believe UK Will Leave EU On October 31 With A Deal

Survey comes as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox rubbishes key plank of Boris Johnson's Brexit plan.

Boris Johnson’s plan to leave the EU with an improved exit deal by Halloween has been given short shrift by senior experts, three quarters of whom believe it will not happen, a survey suggests.

Just 9% of 100 academics thought Brexit would happen with a withdrawal agreement on October 31 with 74% saying it would not, the survey for the UK In A Changing Europe think-tank showed.

More than two thirds (69%) thought Britain would request more time to delay Brexit beyond October 31 but less than half (49%) said the EU would accept. A quarter (25%) said Brussels would refuse.

The panel gave both a no-deal Brexit and a second referendum a 50-50 chance of happening.

Johnson has promised to leave the EU, deal or no deal, on October 31. His rival Jeremy Hunt is also aiming for that date but is open to a short delay if it looks like an improved deal is in the offing.

With the EU determined not to reopen the withdrawal agreement reached with Theresa May, and MPs in parliament appearing determined to block no deal, speculation is rife that a prime minister may call a general election or be forced into one.

But just 17% of the academics believed an election would be called before October 31.

It came as Johnson challenged Hunt to guarantee that Britain would leave the EU on Halloween.

Responding, the foreign secretary refused, instead choosing to taunt Johnson over his refusal to turn up to a leadership debate which had been scheduled by Sky for Tuesday night.

Meanwhile Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, again slapped down Johnson over his claim Britain could use international world trade rules to continue tariff-free trade with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson has argued that a provision under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - known as Gatt 24 - could be used to avoid tariffs under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for up to 10 years.

But Fox, a Brexiteer who is backing Hunt for the leadership, said that would require the agreement of the EU, which Brussels had made clear would not be forthcoming.

“In order to benefit from the terms of Article 24, there must be an agreement between two WTO members as to the elimination of duties and other restrictive regulations on substantially all trade,” he said in an article posted on LinkedIn.

“Therefore, Article 24 would not, by itself, allow the UK to maintain tariff-free trade with the EU in the absence of a negotiated agreement.

“A ‘no deal’ scenario, by definition, suggests that there would be no mutual agreement between the UK and the EU on any temporary or permanent arrangement. In those circumstances Article 24 cannot be used.

“The European Union has made it clear on a number of occasions that full tariffs will be applied to the United Kingdom in the event of ‘no-deal’.”

He added: “It is important that public debate on this topic is conducted on the basis of fact rather than supposition, so that we are able to make decisions in the best interests of our country.”