Brexit has 'caused a lot of damage' to the UK economy, insists George Osborne

14 June 2022, 20:30

By Emma Soteriou

Brexit has "caused a lot of damage" to the UK economy, George Osborne has insisted.

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Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the former Chancellor implied that he still felt Brexit was the wrong decision after having stood firmly against it during 2016's referendum.

He explained that the move was the "biggest act of protectionism in British history".

"I've come to terms with the result [of the referendum] but if you want me to think it was a good idea, I'm not going to think that," Mr Osborne told Andrew.

"It's caused a lot of damage to Britain's economy and, in many ways, the people I respect most are the Brexiteers who say: 'There's an economic cost to Brexit but there are other benefits such as parliamentary control and sovereignty over our borders.'

"What was nonsense - and remains nonsense - are the people who say Brexit was a great economic move to benefit the British economy or a great act of free trade.

"It was the biggest act of protectionism in British history and that is only now really - now it's fully implemented - becoming clear.

"That's why free trade with Europe has got to be a priority for whoever's in government for the next few years."

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He went on to say: "In the end, politics can't defy reality.

"I don't think we're about to join the single market or customs union - that fight was had over the Theresa May parliament - but, put it this way, it's not unimaginable for us in 20 years time to have a set of economic arrangements with the EU, which aren't too different to economic arrangements we had when we were in the EU.

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"In the end, Britain's history is inextricably linked to the fact we're 20 miles off the European continent and there's nothing that either Brexiteers or remainers can do to change that basic fact.

"Our history is influenced by what happens on the continent and vice versa.

"Equally, I'd say to the European Union and Paris and Berlin - Britain is a key player in the European debate and you've also got to find a way to re-establish that bridge."

Mr Osborne gave the example of the controversial Rwanda migrant policy, which will see some people sent from the UK on Tuesday evening.

"The first thing we should be doing is going to the French and having a proper agreement on the policing of the Channel," Mr Osborne said.

"Before you have an agreement with the government of Rwanda, let's have an agreement with the government of France.

"It's on our doorstep."

He added that conflict in Ukraine had shown that "the West does better when it's together".