Brexit will make UK worse off, government forecasts warn

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The UK will be poorer economically under any form of Brexit, compared with staying in the EU, new government analysis suggests.

Official figures say the UK economy could be up to 3.9% smaller after 15 years under Theresa May’s Brexit plan, compared with staying in the EU.

But a no-deal Brexit could deliver a 9.3% hit, the new estimates say.

The prime minister said her deal was the best one available for jobs and the economy.

“Our deal is the best deal available for jobs and our economy, that allows us to honour the referendum and realise the opportunities of Brexit,” Mrs May said at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The government’s Brexit deal faces a potentially difficult vote in the House of Commons on 11 December.

Before that Mrs May is touring the country to promote the deal and was due to be in Scotland on Wednesday afternoon.

What do the forecasts show?

Confusingly the 83-page document does not forecast the impact of the prime minister’ current deal.

Instead it looks at the potential impact of the proposals agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July, which is the basis of the current proposal.

Under those circumstances the economy would be 3.9% smaller than if the UK had remained part of the European Union.

The estimates do not put a cash figure on the potential impact on the economy, but independent experts have said that 3.9% of GDP would equate to about £100bn a year by the 2030s.

The government report also examines three other possible scenarios: a Norway-style membership of the European Economic Area; a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU; and a no-deal Brexit.

The economy will continue to grow under all the scenarios, but there is a wide variation in how much.

What is the political reaction?

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis questioned the research, saying previous Treasury forecasts had been proved wrong and were based on “flawed assumptions”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the planned Brexit deal combined most of the economic benefits of remaining in the EU with the political benefits of leaving the EU.

Asked if the UK would be poorer under Mrs May’s deal, he said: “The economy will be slightly smaller in the prime minister’s preferred version of the future partnership.”

But Mr Hammond argued that staying in the EU was not politically “viable”.

What about trade deals?

Veteran Conservative Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash said Mr Hammond was effectively arguing for the UK to stay in the European Union in his “extraordinary” statement.

He said the chancellor had ignored potential economic benefits of leaving the EU, asking: “What about the trade deals which could give us the most enormous opportunities throughout the world, if we are able to strike them?”

Under Mrs May’s deal, the UK would be able to negotiate trade deals during the transition period after 29 March’s Brexit day, but would not be able to implement them until the end of the planned 21-month transition period, which could itself be extended.

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