By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON (AP) — The co-founder of the fashion brand Superdry said Sunday he has donated 1 million pounds ($1.28 million) to a group seeking a new referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, as the U.K. government prepares to publish its assessment of the impact of leaving the bloc without an agreement on future relations. Julian Dunkerton, whose streetwear brand has outlets in 46 countries, wrote in the Sunday Times that he is backing the People’s Vote campaign because he predicts Brexit will be a “disaster” and “we have a genuine chance to turn this around.”
With only seven months until Britain is due to leave the EU, exit talks have stalled and both sides say the chances of the U.K. crashing out without a deal are rising. That has energized those calling for a new vote on the departure terms, who sense that public opinion in Britain shifting against Brexit. Pro-Brexit advocates, meanwhile, plan a campaign to ensure the British government goes through with the decision to leave, which was made by voters in a 2016 referendum. Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage announced Saturday that he would join a cross-country bus tour by the group Leave Means Leave to oppose Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for future ties with the EU, which he branded a “cowardly sell-out.”
May is proposing to stick close to EU regulations in return for free trade in goods. The plan has infuriated Brexit-backers such as Farage and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who say it would leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc and unable to strike new trade deals around the world. Britain and the EU aim to hammer out an agreement on divorce terms and future trade by October — or, at the latest, December — so that it can be approved by all individual EU countries before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29. But talks have bogged down amid infighting within May’s divided Conservative government. Last week Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics put the chances of getting a Brexit deal at 50-50.
U.K. businesses have warned that leaving without a deal could cause mayhem for trade and travel, bringing higher food prices, logjams around U.K. ports and disruption to everything from aviation to medical supplies. The U.K. government says it remains confident of reaching a deal, but is preparing for all outcomes. On Thursday it plans to publish the first in a series of technical reports outlining the effects a no-deal Brexit would have on various sectors and offering advice to businesses and the public on how to prepare. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the planning is “the responsible thing for any government to do, to mitigate the risks and make sure the U.K. is ready to make a success of Brexit.”