Brexit has caused “so many problems” and its consequences will be felt for decades to come, a leading MEP has warned.
David McAllister, a German politician who chairs the UK Co-ordination Group in the European Parliament, said some in Brussels were still “very, very sad” that the UK had left.
He also told MSPs on Holyrood’s Europe Committee that businesses in Germany had appeared to be better prepared for the end of the Brexit transition period than firms in the UK had been.
While the UK formally left the EU in 2020, the transition period meant the full impact of this was only felt from January 1 this year, with Mr McAllister saying there was a need now to find “practical solutions” to any trade issues.
He told the committee: “My impression is at least in my home country Germany businesses were informed at an early stage what they can expect and what they have to expect for trade.
“There was a big information campaign for all companies, specially targeting smaller and medium sized companies operating in the UK market.
“It seems that perhaps not 100% of all businesses in the UK dealing with the single market on the continent were informed and prepared on the same level.”
Mr McAllister, a member of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party, added: “I don’t like lecturing the UK, but obviously what we are reading is there were so many surprises since January, obviously not everyone was 100% prepared.”
The MEP, who has a Scottish father and German mother, added: “I’ve got to be diplomatic, I won’t say mess, but this whole Brexit has caused so many problems.
“It’s just so unfortunate because if you look at the world there are so many other things we could be dealing with.
“But, of course, we respect every decision taken in London, even though we are still very, very sad.”
He told the committee the Trade and Co-operation Agreement reached between the EU and Boris Johnson’s government just before Christmas was “unprecedented”, being the first the EU had negotiated with a former member state.
He added: “What we will have to keep in mind is no free trade agreement can ever match EU membership nor participation in our single market.
“Brexit may be done but we will be living with the consequences of Brexit for many, many years and decades.”
His message to UK politicians was: “If you leave the European Union, if you leave the single market, if you leave the customs union, this will have consequences, because as a matter of fact the UK and the EU are now totally separate legal systems and two totally separate markets.”
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