rexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg refused on Wednesday to say how quitting the EU had affected Britain’s economy – instead lashing out at experts who have published reports on the damage it is causing.
He failed to answer if the Government had made any assessment of the economic harm or benefits of Brexit.
Put on the spot by The Standard, he said: “I’m not going to make those sorts of assessments because lots were made before the referendum and they are all bilge.
“The Treasury told us that we were going to be bust and in the worst recession just by voting to Leave.
“There is no point in inventing silly figures which lots of people have done and they have all been proved wrong so far.
“So, no, I’m not going to get into that game.”
However, the difference about the new reports is that they are not forecasts or predictions of what would happen if Brexit happened but instead are analyses of the economic impact since Britain voted to Leave in 2016 and then departed in January 2020.
The Treasury has so far failed to make public any assessment of the economic impact of Brexit and the Bank of England has been accused of being reluctant to talk about it to avoid upsetting the Government.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments came just hours after a new report warned that Brexit will hit workers’ real wages by nearly £500-a-year and damage Britain’s competitiveness.
The Resolution Foundation study, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, said the immediate impact of the referendum result has been clear, with a “depreciation-driven inflation spike” increasing the cost of living for households, and seeing business investment falling.
The UK has not seen a large relative decline in its exports to the EU that many predicted, although imports from the EU have fallen more swiftly than those from the rest of the world, the study suggested.
The report said Britain has experienced a decline of eight per cent in trade openness – trade as a share of economic output – since 2019, losing market share across three of its largest non-EU goods import markets in 2021, the US, Canada and Japan.
The full effect of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement will take years to be felt but the move towards a more closed economy, say the authors, will make the UK less competitive, which will reduce productivity and real wages, it was predicted.
The research estimated that labour productivity will be reduced by 1.3 per cent by the end of the decade by the changes in trading rules alone, contributing to weaker wage growth, with real pay set to be £470 per worker lower each year, on average, than it would otherwise have been.
Another recent report, by the Centre for European Reform, estimated that the UK was being hit with a £31 billion blow to GDP from Brexit.
However, Mr Rees-Mogg rejected their findings, saying: “The regurgitations of Project Fear don’t seem to me to get anybody, anywhere by all the usual suspects.”
Earlier, the minister said a dashboard will be made available to the public to show on a quarterly basis how much EU law has been reformed.
He pledge a British-style revolution to get rid of unnecessary legislation and regulations which had been imported from the European Union.
Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg, whose portfolio includes Brexit opportunities and Government efficiency, said: “As we maximise the benefits of Brexit and transform the UK into the most sensibly regulated economy in the world we must reform the EU law we have retained on our statute book.
“Only through reform of this retained EU law will we finally be able to untangle ourselves of nearly 50 years of EU membership.”
He went on: “I am pleased to announce that today we publish an authoritative catalogue of over 2,400 pieces of legislation spanning over 300 individual policy areas.
“This catalogue will be available on gov.uk through an interactive dashboard. It will be updated on a quarterly basis so that the public can count down retained EU law as the Government reforms it.”
He added: “The publication of this dashboard offers the public a real opportunity. Everything on it we can now change.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said he is inviting the public “from across the country” to “once again share their ideas of reform and to look further into pieces of retained EU law that have an impact on their lives”.
He said: “By using this dashboard the public can join us on this journey to amend, repeal or replace retained EU law. Together we will make reforms which will create a crucial boost to productivity and help us bring the benefits of growth to the whole country.”
But Labour slammed the announcement, saying gimmicks do nothing to address the “real challenges” that the public face today.
Shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Doughty told MPs: “This simply appears to be a vanity project. It’s quite extraordinary that on the day that inflation tops nine per cent, the cost of energy is soaring, families facing massive pressures wondering how they will put food on the table, prices rising at the fastest rate of increase for 40 years, the Government’s offer today to the British people is a digital filing cabinet of existing legislation, which the gentleman describes, in his own words, as marginal.
“And while the Government plans to cut 20 per cent of civil servants, the minister for so-called government efficiency is running his own make-work scheme in the Cabinet Office, creating tasks for them to satisfy his own obsessions.”