By Ian McConnell

FORMER Brexit minister Lord Frost will claim in a conference speech today that “Brexit is working”.

He will also declare, at the UK in a Changing Europe’s World Beyond Brexit conference, that the view that Brexit is damaging the UK economy and trade “cannot be supported by any objective analysis of the figures”.

According to an advance of Lord Frost’s speech released by the organisers of the conference, which is six years to the day since the referendum, the former Scotch Whisky Association chief executive will say: “Brexit is working. We have no cause for regrets about the decision the country has taken. The solutions to the remaining problems are not to be found in going backwards, but in completing the process and following through on its logic."

Lord Frost will declare: “First, and crucially, Brexit is fundamentally about democracy. It’s about ensuring decisions for this country are taken in this country after proper debate. That is now beginning to happen.

"Second, although most of the hard work is done, Brexit is not complete yet and there are things still to do, most obviously in re-establishing arrangements in Northern Ireland which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement - but not only there.”

He will add: "Third, the view that Brexit is hitting us from an economic and trade perspective is generated by those with an axe to grind and cannot be supported by any objective analysis of the figures. The UK has grown at much the same pace as other G7 countries since the referendum and, as the ONS points out, our goods exports to the EU are at the highest level ever.

"Fourth, Brexit is not a thing in itself but a necessary gateway to a project of national renewal. The Government needs to get on with defining and implementing that project.

"And finally, does the EU want Brexit to work? Can it rise above the current frictions and work with the UK as a trusted partner, or will it continue to hassle and lecture us?"

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast earlier this month that the UK will next year stagnate and be the worst-performing economy among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations by a significant margin.

In its latest economic and fiscal outlook, published in March to coincide with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility says: “With little evidence to suggest that we revise our assumption about the negative effect of Brexit on UK trade flows, we continue to forecast little growth in export and import volumes and a fall in the trade intensity of the economy over the medium term.

“The financial crisis, Brexit and the pandemic are all expected to have long-term consequences for potential output, a key determinant of medium-term fiscal prospects.”

Looking at what has already happened, the OBR says: “The recovery in UK trade has also been slow relative to advanced economies as total advanced economy goods exports already exceed pre-pandemic levels by three per cent, suggesting that Brexit may have been a factor.”

The comparisons with other countries in the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations are stark.

The OBR observes: “Comparing our recent overall trade performance with other advanced economies suggests that the UK saw a similar collapse in exports as other countries at the start of the pandemic but has since missed out on much of the recovery in global trade. UK and aggregate advanced economy goods export volumes fell by around 20 per cent during the initial wave of the pandemic in 2020. But by the fourth quarter of 2021 total advanced economy trade volumes had rebounded to three per cent above their pre-pandemic levels while UK exports remain around 12 per cent below. The UK therefore appears to have become a less trade intensive economy, with trade as a share of GDP (gross domestic product) falling 12 per cent since 2019, two and a half times more than in any other G7 country.”

Over the long term, the OBR continues to forecast a very large negative Brexit effect on the UK economy, with nothing it has seen so far from the UK Government on new trade deals affecting its prediction materially.

The OBR says: “Our forecast continues to assume that leaving the EU will result in the UK’s total imports and exports being 15 per cent lower than had the UK remained a member state. This fall in the trade intensity of UK output is likely to reduce the level of potential productivity, though the size of this effect is uncertain; we assume productivity is ultimately four per cent lower after a 15-year period. None of the new free-trade agreements (FTAs) or other regulatory changes announced so far would be sufficient to have a material impact on our forecast.”

It adds: “While additional trade with other [countries] could offset some of the decline in trade with the EU, none of the agreements concluded to date are of a sufficient scale to have a material impact on our forecast. The Government’s own estimate of the economic impact of the free-trade agreement with Australia, the first to be concluded with a country that does not have a similar arrangement with the EU, is that it would raise total UK exports by 0.4 per cent, imports by 0.4 per cent and the level of GDP by only 0.1 per cent over 15 years.”

Referring to the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the OBR declares: “In summary, there is little in the data since the TCA was implemented to suggest the assumption of a 15 per cent reduction in trade intensity as a result of Brexit is no longer a central estimate.”

The Theresa May government forecasts, published in November 2018, showed Brexit would, with an average free trade deal with the European Union, result in UK GDP in 15 years’ time being 4.9% lower than if the country had stayed in the bloc if there were no change to migration arrangements. Or 6.7% worse on the basis of zero net inflow of workers from European Economic Area countries. The Tories have since clamped down on immigration.