‘Anyone who says Brexit is hitting us has axe to grind’

‘Anyone who says Brexit is hitting us has axe to grind’

The former Brexit negotiator, David Frost, said on the sixth anniversary of the UK leaving the EU, that it is working and anyone who says it has hit the economy and trade has an axe to grind.

Lord Frost stopped short of painting a picture of sunny uplands, but official figures used to predict a 4% decline in output caused by Brexit were zombie numbers, based on academic studies of former communist countries, and not fact.

The studies looked at the effects of opening up badly run ex-communist and ex-authoritarian autarchic economies in which opening up was creating huge improvements to the policy regime, and in which the gains came not only from trade, he said.

His comments came a day after a report by the Resolution Foundation said that Britain's exports were hurting the competitiveness and making the cost of living crisis worse for households. It was dismissed by the Brexit opportunities minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, as a rebuke of the project fear Frost said on Thursday: The view that Brexit is hitting us from an economic and trade perspective is generated by those with an axe to grind and cannot be supported by any objective analysis of the figures. Since the referendum, the UK has grown at a much the same pace as other G 7 countries and our goods exports to the EU are at the highest level ever, according to the ONS. He said the picture was clouded since 2020 by trade disruptions caused by the Covid epidemic, the Ukraine war and the supply chain crisis. He told the UK that it might never be possible to determine the impact of Brexit alone, as he told a Changing Europe annual conference.

As the EU threw its arms around Ukraine and Moldova in order to give them candidate membership status, Frost asked how long it would take for the EU to give them a stronger relationship with the UK, and that it would need to adjust its behaviour in Northern Ireland and more broadly.

Frost also asked why the UK government had not threatened to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol when it unveiled draft legislation to override the Brexit arrangements last week. He said there are some traces in the government's legal opinions that ruled it out as a way forward. Obviously, it would allow you to act much more quickly than the bill does.

He backed Liz Truss's controversial bill, saying there had been no serious discussion of the solutions put forward by the UK in a command paper last summer.

He said: "Importance is working." We do not have any regrets about the decision the country has taken. 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. Frost played a leading role in the Brexit negotiations, first as an adviser to Boris Johnson as foreign secretary and then as the prime minister's trade negotiator. While he won plaudits among the Brexiters for sealing a trade deal in December 2020, his continued criticism of Europe has antagonised many in Brussels.

On Wednesday he suggested that it was up to the EU to restore relations. Does the EU want Brexit to work? Can it rise above the current frictions and work with the UK as a trusted partner?