The former Chancellor of the Exchequer said Brexit “caused a lot of damage to Britain’s economy” and that while he has “come to terms” with the vote, he would never think “Brexit was a good idea.” He accused people who say that the move was of great economic benefit of talking “nonsense”, before calling on the Government to make free trade with the European Union a priority over the next few years.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on LBC, he said: “Look, I did not want to have a referendum. When I was fighting that referendum, I did everything I could to get it over the line, you know, the decision to stay in the European Union.
“I’ve come to terms with the result but if you want me to think Brexit was a good idea, I’m not going to think that.
“It’s caused a lot of damage to Britain’s economy. I think in many ways the people I respect the most are the Brexiteers who say there’s an economic cost to Brexit, but there are other benefits, such as parliamentary control or 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 that it’s fully implemented, becoming clear.
“And that’s why free trade with Europe has got to be a priority for whoever is the Government over the next few years.”
As negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol sour, the possibility of a trade war with the EU is becoming increasingly likely.
Boris Johnson allegedly told his ministers on Tuesday to “de-escalate” rhetoric to prevent a trade war with Brussels, according to The Daily Telegraph.
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But the European Commission responded to the publication of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill on Monday with an announcement that it intends to re-open legal action against the UK, which has been on hold since September.
Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic hinted at further measures, saying the unilateral action by the UK had undermined the trust needed for the effective operation of its post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels.
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney warned the UK Government’s move could “destabilise” the situation in Northern Ireland and was undermining the work that led to the Brexit agreement with the EU.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday there was “absolutely no reason” for the EU to retaliate against the UK after the plans to tear up the protocol caused outrage in capitals across the continent.
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Ms Truss said: “Our solution doesn’t make the EU any worse off. We continue to protect the single market, we’re supplying the EU with data, we’ve got strong enforcement to make sure companies aren’t violating the rules.
“So there is absolutely no reason why the EU should react in a negative way to what we’re doing.”
The UK has argued that the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.
But the imposition of checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in order to keep an open border with Ireland has angered unionists.
Germany’s ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger said the British Government’s decision to break the agreement was one “we deeply regret”.