Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator warned that leaving the single market and customs union would cost £1,500 per person, it has emerged.
Lord Frost is now among the hardest line Brexiteers in the government – this week arguing that the UK needs to ditch a European-style economy entirely.
He is pushing hard to drive European judges out of the Brexit deal, and oversaw taking Britain out of the single market and customs union.
But before the referendum while a lobbyist for the drinks industry Lord Frost struck a different tone – acknowledging Brexit’s massive costs.
He told a Scottish Parliament committee in 2015 that the “single market and single trade policy” were major benefits of EU membership.
“When we get to the referendum, I hope it is a real debate about everything that Europe offers. You mentioned quite a few of those things: I would add the single market and single trade policy to that,” he told the devolved legislature at the time.
“Although estimates vary about how much wealth the single market generates for the UK, since we joined, it’s probably in the order of five, six seven, eight per cent uplift to GDP.
“For somebody on an average salary that’s about £1,500 a year. Most people think that that’s worth having. I think when you put it in those terms, there’s there’s very a clear benefit, that because we don’t see it every day, we’ve kind of forgotten about it. But it is there, and we’d begin to lose it if we weren’t part of it.”
Lord Frost’s estimates from before the referendum appear to have stood the test of time: the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that Brexit will cost the UK around £1,250 per person in the coming decades.
This compares to the tiny economic boost from signing free trade agreements. An analysis conduced by the University of Sussex UK Trade Policy Observatory for The Independent this month found that post-Brexit trade deals will make up at most £7 of that £1,250.
But in a speech last month Lord Frost claimed otherwise, arguing that a hard Brexit was in fact “essential”.
He told his audience in Lisbon: “History shows us that it is genuine competition – regulatory and commercial – between states which has typically been the most reliable driver of innovation and progress.
“That’s why what some people call I quote ‘hard Brexit’ – in its original sense of leaving the EU customs union and single market – was essential.
“It was the only form of Brexit that allowed us freedom to experiment and freedom to act. This is already happening. And you can see some themes emerging reflecting our different policy preferences in the UK.”
Lord Frost was enobled by Boris Johnson after negotiating the Brexit agreement. He negotiated the deal as the prime minister’s special advisor for Europe, largely taking over from the Department for Exiting the European Union.
A UK Government Spokesperson said Lord Frost’s comments did not reflect his views.
“Lord Frost was speaking in his capacity as Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association,” the spokesperson said.
“His role was to speak on behalf of its members and these comments do not reflect his views or the views of government.”