But Brexit minister now claims hard Brexit was ‘essential’
Britain’s chief 脱欧 negotiator warned that leaving the single market and customs union would cost £1,500 per person, it has emerged.
Lord Frost is now among the hardest of Brexiteers in the government – arguing this week that the UK needs to ditch a European-style economy entirely.
He is pushing hard to drive European judges out of the Brexit deal and oversaw withdrawal from the single market and customs union.
But before the referendum, while a lobbyist for the drinks industry, Lord Frost struck a different tone – acknowledging Brexit’s massive costs.
He told a Scottish Parliament committee in 2015 that the “single market and single trade policy” were major benefits of EU membership.
“When we get to the referendum, I hope it is a real debate about everything that Europe offers. You mentioned quite a few of those things: I would add the single market and single trade policy to that,” he told the devolved legislature at the time.
“Although estimates vary about how much wealth the single market generates for the UK, since we joined, it’s probably in the order of five, six, seven, eight per cent uplift to GDP.
“For somebody on an average salary that’s about £1,500 a year. Most people think that that’s worth having. I think when you put it in those terms, there’s a very clear benefit, that because we don’t see it every day, we’ve kind of forgotten about it but it is there and we’d begin to lose it if we weren’t part of it.”
Lord Frost’s estimates from before the referendum appear to have a grain of truth: the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that Brexit will cost us around £1,250 each over 15 年.
This compares with the tiny economic boost from signing free trade agreements. An analysis conduced by the University of Sussex UK Trade Policy Observatory for 独立 this month found that post-Brexit trade deals will claw back at most £7 of that £1,250.
But in a speech last month Lord Frost claimed otherwise, arguing that a hard Brexit was in fact “essential”.
He told his audience in Lisbon: “History shows us that it is genuine competition – regulatory and commercial – between states which has typically been the most reliable driver of innovation and progress.
“That’s why what some people call, I quote, ‘hard Brexit’ – in its original sense of leaving the EU customs union and single market – was essential.
“It was the only form of Brexit that allowed us freedom to experiment and freedom to act. This is already happening and you can see some themes emerging reflecting our different policy preferences in the UK.”
Lord Frost was enobled by Boris Johnson after negotiating the Brexit agreement. He negotiated the deal as the prime minister’s special adviser for Europe, largely taking over from the Department for Exiting the European Union.
A government spokesperson said Lord Frost’s earlier comments did not reflect his views.
“Lord Frost was speaking in his capacity as chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association,” the spokesperson said.
“His role was to speak on behalf of its members and these comments do not reflect his views or the views of government.”