The SNP’s Westminster leader has labelled the UK as a “Brexit ship” that “sinks" as Rishi Sunak claimed plummeting living standards has nothing to do with leaving the EU.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that the UK economy will contract by 0.6 per cent in 2023 against the 0.3% growth it pencilled in last October in yet another major downgrade.

In its latest World Economic Outlook update, the IMF upped its growth outlook for the global economy, but cautioned that Britain looks set to suffer more than most from soaring inflation and higher interest rates.

The grim outlook for the year ahead puts the UK far behind its counterparts in the G7 group of advanced nations and the only country, across advanced and major emerging economies, expected by the IMF to suffer a year of declining GDP.

Prime Minister's Questions: Sleazy does it  

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, pointed to “the loss of people from our labour force” and the “continuing challenges from Brexit” as particular challenges for the UK economy, compared to other major economies.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn challenged the Prime Minister over Brexit, asking if he still believed that the UK “can afford not to be in the EU?”

He said: “We’ve just marked the three-year anniversary of Brexit and we’ve learned, they’ll not be cheering in a moment, because we have learned three things: the UK’s trade deficit has grown, the economy is being hit to the tune of £100 billion each year, and of course we know that the UK’s economy is expected to be the worst performing of all advanced nations.

“Does the Prime Minister still believe that the UK can afford not to be in the EU?”

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In response, the Prime Minister said: “If you actually look at it since Brexit, the UK has grown exactly the same as Germany, but not only that, we are taking advantage of Brexit to deliver for the people across the UK.

“Whether it’s the fishing and farming communities of Scotland, whether it’s through the two new freeports that we’ve just announced. The difference between his party and ours is that we respect referendums.”

But Mr Flynn rejected the claims from the Prime Minister.

He said: “Let’s be clear, taken together 2022 and 2023 are expected to be the worst years for living standards since the 1930s and the economy is expected to perform worse than sanction hit Russia.

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“So whilst the Brexit ship sinks with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition at the helm, does he blame those Scots who want to jump aboard the independence lifeboat?”

Mr Sunak replied: “The number one factor that is impacting people’s living standards, inflation caused by high energy prices as a result of a war in Ukraine.

“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit and that’s why the Government is taking significant action supporting every family with £900 this winter, but what I would say to him is rather than obsess about constitutional arrangements, focus on delivering for the people of Scotland, that’s what we will do.”