In a week that brought confirmation of the detrimental impact the UK’s departure from the EU has had on trade, Brexit opportunities minister insists Brexit has been a success.
During a visit to the Port of Felixstowe, Jacob Rees-Mogg contended that the country’s departure from the European Union has been successful, dismissing mounting evidence that trade has taken a knock because of Brexit.
The Tory MP for North East Somerset, who was appointed Brexit opportunities minister last week in Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, says the damage to trade due to Brexit is “few and far between.”
“I think Brexit has been extremely beneficial for the country, I think the evidence that Brexit has caused trade drops is few and far between,” Rees-Mogg said.
The comments came as a raft of evidence proves otherwise.
Paperwork hindering trade
Suffolk’s chamber of commerce said paperwork was impeding trade. Koyas Miah of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said many members had seen an increase in the costs of administration, and rules being interpreted differently by different EU countries was proving detrimental.
“The paperwork, understanding what they (firms) need to do, how they need to do it is becoming a challenge,” said Miah.
An evaluation from Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee found that, so far, the “only detectable impact” of Britain’s withdrawal has been escalating burdens on businesses. The damning report concludes that since the UK officially left the single market, businesses have been met with additional paperwork, higher costs and border delays.
‘Worse is yet to come’
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said that many exporters have “given up” on trading with EU firms. Withers warned that the worse is yet to come and called for the “tsunami” of red tape facing businesses since Brexit to be cut.
UK voters ‘didn’t understand what they were voting for’
The same week saw the European Parliament assert UK voters did not understand what they were voting for when they backed Brexit in 2016. MEPs suggested that the vote could have swung Remain if the campaign had warned “often misled” British voters of the risks of leaving.
“British citizens had scant knowledge about the European Union and were not adequately informed about the far-reaching consequences of the decision to leave the union,” the report said.
“Citizens were never given a clear picture of the relationship that their country would have with the EU once it left, and were often misled about the implications of the withdrawal, especially as regards Northern Ireland,” it added.
Despite mounting evidence that shows the scale of damage the UK’s departure is having on business and trade, the pro-Brexit Express leapt to Rees-Mogg’s defence, reporting that the MP is mocking Rejoiners “desperate to find trade drop that doesn’t exist.’
According to the right-wing paper’s report, the new Brexit opportunities minister said trade has been hit by lockdowns and Covid restrictions, not Brexit.
Starmer says there is ‘no going back’
As the Express taunts so-called Rejoiners, Keir Starmer caused some upset in Scotland, by claiming there was “no going back” for Brexit and the case for rejoining the EU is not feasible.
Speaking on BBC Radio Newcastle this week, Starmer assured people in the North East – a region that largely voted to Leave the EU – that there was “no case” for rejoining.
“What I want to see now is, not just Brexit done, not just in the sense that we are technically out of the EU. I want to make it work. I want to take advantage of the opportunities,” he said.
The comments have been slammed by some in Scotland, as the country voted in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%, with all 32 council areas backing Remain.
Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, was among the critics, saying:
“It’s now beyond doubt that independence is the only way for Scotland to regain our place in Europe – there is no way back under Westminster control.
“Brexit was imposed against Scotland’s will, and it has cost us billions of pounds in long-term damage – hammering our economy, compounding the Tory cost of living crisis, and stripping away people’s rights. In a shoddy attempt to win back votes in England, Starmer’s Labour Party has completely abandoned Scotland.
“The confirmation that Labour has joined the Tories on Brexit, makes it all the more essential that people in Scotland have the choice to determine our own future in an independence referendum, so we can build a fairer, greener and European future as an independent country,” he continued.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward