Downing Street has maintained its refusal to order an economic impact assessment of Brexit, as the European Commission claimed that the damage caused by the UK’s exit from the EU was becoming evident.

On Thursday Maroš Šefčovič, commission vice-president, said it was now becoming possible to disentangle the effects of Brexit from those of the Covid-19 pandemic and the damage to trade was “starting to show more clearly”.

He said trade in services and goods in 2021 from the UK to the EU was down sharply compared with 2019 levels, as new border controls were introduced.

The tariff-free Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and UK took provisional effect in January 2021, but Šefčovič said trade between the two sides now involved more paperwork and checks.

“The effects of Brexit on trade between UK and EU are starting to show more clearly,” he told the EU-UK Forum annual conference. “The TCA is not and cannot ever be a replacement for EU membership.”

Red tape caused a “steep decline” in the number of trading relationships after January 2021, according to a study by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. It found that the number of buyer-seller relationships fell by almost one-third.

Other studies have shown that Britain’s post-pandemic trade performance has lagged behind other developed countries, but the government has so far refused to officially blame Brexit.

Downing Street this week repeatedly declined to commit to conducting a Brexit impact assessment, saying that it would “not be straightforward” because of the effects of Covid and the war in Ukraine.

“We will continue to realise the benefits of Brexit,” said a spokesman for Boris Johnson. Asked when these supposed benefits might materialise, he replied: “It’s too early to assess the long term benefits of Brexit.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted in March that the UK’s dismal recent trade performance compared with other G7 countries “might well be” because of Brexit, but he said it was too early to be definitive.

Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour mayor, this week said Britain should apply to rejoin the EU’s single market, but Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, said that was not the party’s policy and there was “no case” for such a move.

A study by Ipsos UK in partnership with the EU-UK Forum found that the proportion of Britons who think Brexit has made their daily life worse has risen from 30 per cent in June 2021 to 45 per cent now. Some 17 per cent said their lives had been made better.

Meanwhile the High Court has granted permission for a judicial review hearing against the Home Office over its treatment of EU citizens who failed to apply for settled status to remain in the UK.

The Independent Monitoring Authority, which scrutinises the citizens’ rights deal between Britain and the EU, argues that it is unlawful for the Home Office to automatically remove the rights of citizens if they fail to apply for settled status before the expiry of their pre-settled status.

The Home Office disagrees with the IMA’s interpretation. A spokesperson said: “We take our citizens’ rights obligations very seriously and, in good faith, we have put in place the arrangements agreed under the withdrawal agreement.”

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