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Michael Gove has failed to name a single change from Brexit that has “made business easier”, as criticism of the economic harm from the trade deal grows.
The leading campaigner for EU withdrawal was asked six times to set out how the promised “transformation of our economy” has been achieved – six years after the Leave vote.
Mr Gove pointed to reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and gene-editing, as well as freedom for the UK to “make our rivers cleaner, our air purer, our soil more resilient” as benefits of Brexit.
But he was accused of failing to identify any change that has “made the life of businesses easier by leaving the EU”, being told, on BBC Radio 4: “If I was from the CBI, I might be tempted to say ‘is that it?’”
The leading business group has hit out at the punishing barriers from ending frictionless trade with the EU, which is forecast to trigger a 4 per cent GDP slump.
But Rishi Sunak, fearing attacks from Tory right-wingers, has rejected calls to soften the terms of the Christmas 2020 trade deal – or more short-term visas for badly-needed workers.
On Radio 4, Mr Gove, the levelling up secretary, was asked: “How have you made the life of businesses easier by leaving the EU?”
He pointed to having “got rid of the Common Agricultural Policy” and the UK being “in control of our own migration policy”, but was told: “That may be good in its own right, but doesn’t help business.”
Mr Gove argued removing EU agriculture rules would help the food and drink industry – “our biggest manufacturing sector” – even though it has been hit hardest by the new trade barriers.
“With gene editing, which is going to be a significant economic development that will help us grow, we are now creating a legislative framework that will allow businesses in that area and life sciences to grow,” he said.
Nick Robinson, the Today programme presenter, told Mr Gove: “If I was from the CBI, I might be tempted to say ‘Is that it? This great transformation of our economy promised six years ago – and you’re saying it’s the end of the CAP’”