On June 23, 2016, just over half of British voters, 51.9%, backed leaving the European Union, sending shockwaves around the world as the UK began the painful process of divorce from the block.
The result also sowed the seeds for one of the most divisive periods in British political history, with the resignation of two Tory prime ministers, the sacking of 21 Tory rebels and an overall victory for Boris Johnson on the back of his promise of a “four – Brexit-ready deal”.
Today, on the sixth anniversary of the referendum, one of the central figures in the pursuit of that deal delivered his verdict: ‘Brexit works’, says Lord Frost, adding that those who say he is hitting economy have “an ax to grind”. .
So, do Frost’s claims stack?
Does Brexit work?
Although it may be too early to say whether his statement could be backed up by evidence, Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London and director of the United Kingdom in a changing Europe , asked Frost to look at it in a different way. – what evidence in the future would convince him that Brexit had failed.
“An interesting question,” was his response. And the answer was not in trade numbers, but in visceral politics. Would the British divisions have healed?
“A proof of failure would be if we were still debating it in five or six years in the same way. I think it is to succeed that he must settle in British politics.
Economy – what Lord Frost says:
He said the forecasts of a 4% contraction in UK gross domestic product used by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) were not facts but ‘zombie figures’ based on a report by the government’s economic services in 2018 which was based on academic studies on the impact of opening up “mismanaged ex-communist and ex-authoritarian autarkic economies”.
He was referring to a 79-page report, Exiting the EU: Technical Reference Document on Long-Term Economic Analysis, which looked at five model Brexit deals and their impact on the 12 regions of the UK taking into account trade and non-trade barriers.
But Frost said his forecast could ‘not be backed up by objective analysis’ with Britain growing ‘around the same pace as other G7 countries since the referendum and goods exports to the EU’ at most. high level never reached”.
He also argued that the precise impact of Brexit may never be known as trade figures were clouded by disruption caused by the pandemic, the supply chain crisis and the situation in Ukraine.
What others are saying:
Four years later, the The OBR maintains its forecasts. Its latest forecast, from March 2022, indicated that the trade deal sealed by Frost would “reduce long-term productivity by 4% compared to staying in the EU”.
He said this reflected his view “that increasing non-tariff barriers” such as bureaucracy, adherence to standards, was an “impediment to exploiting comparative advantage”.
OECD figures showed that the UK was ahead of France, Italy, Germany and Japan in terms of the percentage change in its GDP between the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2022, but behind the EU as a whole, and significantly behind the US, Australia and the G20 as a whole.
This week, a report by the Resolution Foundation said Britain had seen a sharp decline in trade openness (total trade as a percentage of GDP) since 2019, down eight percentage points. That compares to a drop of two percentage points for France, he added.
“The full effect of TCA [trade and cooperation agreement] will take years to be felt, but this move towards a more closed economy,” the authors said.
Menon said: “Early evidence suggests there is an impact on Brexit and recent analysis by the Resolution Foundation suggests that in the medium term this will be significant.”
Northern Ireland Protocol: What Frost says:
It remains an unfinished Brexit deal and the “biggest problem” caused by Britain’s exit from the EU. “The delicately balanced compromise we put in place in 2019, recognizing that we were running high levels of risk doing so, fell apart much faster than most of us realized,” Frost said.
He blamed the EU, which he said refused to consider compromises despite sensitivities.
What others are saying:
This is entirely in line with Government policy, which has been met with a chorus of cross-party disapproval and support within the Brexit backbench community and conditional support from the Brexit Unionist community. North Ireland.
Reports over the weekend suggested Frost helped draft the controversial bill to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.
But unscripted remarks suggest there was no convergence of views. He said he was surprised the Article 16 mechanism had not been triggered, arguing it would have been a “quicker” way to resolve the dispute with the EU.
This might reinforce the idea that the government’s plan has always been to present legislation as a crude bargaining tool.