The Independent

Chancellor admits Brexit has added costs to economy

- ANDREW WOODCOCK

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has accepted that Brexit has imposed “costs” on the UK, but insisted he did not believe EU withdrawal would make Britain poorer in the long run.

Challenged by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Hunt did not deny that the UK economy had grown less strongly since the

formal departure date almost three years ago than it would have done if Britain had remained in the European trading bloc.

But he blamed the Covid pandemic for preventing the UK from taking advantage of the “opportunit­ies” that he claimed were offered by Brexit.

Despite figures showing that Britain is the only major economy to have failed to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth, he denied that Brexit was “the biggest issue” holding the economy back. And he said that his autumn statement on Thursday would include measures to enable the UK to make a success of the change.

Asked whether UK growth had been slower as a result of Brexit, Mr Hunt told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “What I don’t accept is the premise that Brexit will make us poorer.

“I don’t deny there are costs to a decision like Brexit, but there are also opportunit­ies and you have to see it in the round. Literally within months of formally leaving the EU, we had a once in a century pandemic, which has meant the process of outlining what the opportunit­ies are has taken longer. But I think we need to do that. We’ve decided to do it and we need to make it a success.”

Asked whether he believed Brexit had contribute­d to the fact that the UK economy was lagging behind continenta­l neighbours, the chancellor replied: “I don’t think that’s the biggest issue. I think it’s much more to do with other factors in the labour market that I want to think about.”

Mr Hunt added: “Brexit is a big change that the country voted for, and whether it’s a success or not is up to us – whether we embrace the opportunit­ies of a different type of economy to one that we would have been in as part of the European single market.

“I believe we can make a tremendous success of it, but it’s not going to happen automatica­lly. And what you’ll hear on Thursday is some of the ways that I think we can make a success of it.”

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 ?? (PA) ?? But Hunt says it’s Covid that has stopped the UK from making the most of ‘opportunit­ies’
(PA) But Hunt says it’s Covid that has stopped the UK from making the most of ‘opportunit­ies’

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