LEAVING the EU is “working” for the UK’s economy and is improving democracy, according to Boris Johnson’s former chief Brexit negotiator has claimed.
That’s despite damning new evidence showing leaving the EU will make the UK “poorer and less productive” in the decade, with Scottish workers expected to lose out the equivalent of £400 a year. The analysis by the Resolution concludes Brexit has reduced how open and competitive Britain’s economy is.
The UK Government has also been accused of multiple “power grabs” following the European referendum.
But Lord Frost has claimed the true economic impact of the process may never be known, and insisted it has improved democracy.
Speaking on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit vote, the former minister said it may never become clear whether leaving the EU had brought any economic dividend as there was “so much else going on”.
Lord Frost, who negotiated the Brexit deal before resigning over the Government’s broader direction, said: “I’m not sure it is ever going to be clear in that sense whether it’s succeeded or failed because so much else is going on and extracting the causality about this is always going to be extremely difficult.”
Appearing at the UK in a Changing Europe think tank’s annual conference on Wednesday, Lord Frost insisted Brexit was working, although it was still unfinished.
He said: “We have no cause for regrets about the decision the country has taken and the solutions to the remaining problems are not to be found in going backwards, but in completing the process and following through on its logic.”
On the economic impact, Lord Frost said there was “a huge amount of noise in the figures” from the pandemic, supply chain disruption and the war in Ukraine, making it “hard to be confident what if any changes in UK trade are due to Brexit”.
While he noted that there had been “some transitional impact on trade”, he said comparisons with other major economies suggested there was “no obvious Brexit-related lag”.
But he urged Brexit supporters to be “honest” about the “trade-offs” involved in leaving the EU instead of “pretending nothing is going on”.
He said: “I don’t think it’s reasonable to say, as some pro-Brexit people do, ‘nothing to see here in the figures, don’t bother looking at them, it really is not important’.
“I don’t think that’s fair, you have to look at the figures, they’re telling you something, I just don’t believe they bear the constructions that are put on them at the moment.”
Lord Frost added the “crucial test” was about democracy, arguing that Brexit had delivered democracy because “we can now change everything by elections”.
He said: “Democracy counts. Brexit automatically delivers democracy. So it is working.”
However, the process of leaving the EU has repeatedly led to warnings that democracy is being undermined, not least from Holyrood.
The Scottish Government argues the country is being dragged out of the bloc against its will after the majority voted to remain.
The peer went on to say that Brexit was “not fully complete yet”, with more work needing to be done to address the Northern Ireland Protocol and remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Following the announcement by Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg of plans to scrap EU regulations on Wednesday, Lord Frost added that Brexit was “not a thing in itself” but “the beginning of a broader project of national renewal”.
He welcomed Rees-Mogg’s proposals, saying he hoped they would “kick off a different approach” to bringing “meaningful” reform.
According to the Resolution Foundation’s report, workers in Scotland will earn £400 less per year in real terms by 2030, compared to if the UK had remained in the EU.
The report also found the immediate impact of the Brexit referendum result has been clear, with cost-of-living increases resulting in a reduction of annual average UK household income of £870 a year.
The UK has not seen a large relative decline in its exports to the EU that many predicted, although imports from the EU have fallen more swiftly than those from the rest of the world, the study suggested.
Britain has experienced a decline of 8% in trade openness – trade as a share of economic output – since 2019, losing market share across three of its largest non-EU goods import markets in 2021, the US, Canada and Japan.
According to forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, UK productivity and gross domestic product will decline by 4% as a result of Brexit, equating to roughly £100 billion a year in lost output and a £40bn decline in annual Treasury revenues.
The UK is also on track to have the lowest growth next year of any G20 nation, with the exception of Russia, according to the OECD.