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Brexit’s economic impact may never be clear – Lord Frost

Former Brexit minister Lord Frost said the ‘crucial test’ of Brexit was democracy, not economics (Peter Byrne/PA)
Former Brexit minister Lord Frost said the ‘crucial test’ of Brexit was democracy, not economics (Peter Byrne/PA)

The true economic impact of Brexit may never be known, Lord Frost has said.

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.”

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic during talks to improve post-Brexit border rules (Dan Kitwood/PA)

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.”

The comments were echoed by Sir James Dyson, who said he expected Brexit to “work out” while urging people to be “patient” about its benefits.

The Brexit-backing businessman told Times Radio: “I really do think it will work out because, you know, we’re independent, we’re on our own, we can control our own destiny.

“And we know we’ve got to do that. And I think we just have to be a bit patient about it.”

Sir James Dyson
Businessman Sir James Dyson is confident Brexit will ‘work out’ (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

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.”

Asked about Lord Frost’s comments, a Downing Street spokesman said that the Government was “committed to making sure that we realise all the benefits of Brexit”.

The spokesman said: “We will see the benefits as we continue to reach more trade deals with countries across the globe and similarly the ability to control things like import tariffs and other economic levers that we now have full control over.”

In his speech on Thursday, 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.”

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 Mr Rees-Mogg’s proposals, saying he hoped they would “kick off a different approach” to bringing “meaningful” reform.