Chancellor Jeremy Hunt admits Brexit is a barrier to growth

The Chancellor has admitted that Brexit is a barrier to growth while trying to defend the misery of millions in his austerity budget.

In a radio interview, Jeremy Hunt, who yesterday unveiled a punitive plan to plug a £55bn hole in public finances over the next five years, admitted that having “unrestricted trade with our neighbours” was good for economic growth.

The chancellor was forced to make the concession on BBC Radio 4’s Today show on Friday, after he confirmed in the Autumn Statement the day before that the UK was in the midst of a recession that will see living standards collapse. , according to the Office for Budgetary Responsibility. .

The spending watchdog said yesterday that disposable income would fall in real terms over the next two financial years by 7%, ending eight years of “improvement”.

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Asked if rejoining the single market would boost growth, the Chancellor said: “I think having unrestricted trade with our neighbors and countries around the world is very beneficial for growth.

“I am fully confident that, in the coming years, we will find that, outside of the single market, we will be able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU. It will take time.”

But he insisted that rejoining the single market was not the right way to boost growth because it would go against the will of those who backed Brexit in 2016.

He added: “I don’t think it’s the right way to drive growth because it would go against what people were voting for when they supported Brexit, which was to have control of our borders and membership of the single market requires free movement of people.

“So I think we can find other ways that more than make up for those advantages.”

In Question Time on Thursday night, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford made the case for increasing immigration to the UK to boost economic growth.

He said: “If it wasn’t for Brexit, then we wouldn’t have needed the austerity we now have in the future.

“If we look at what has happened since the pandemic, 1.3 EU citizens have returned home, they have been lost to the economy, that is the impact on the labor market.

“Let me give you the very real example of a bakery in my own constituency, in Fort William, Nevis Bakery.

“They told me the other week that they might double down tomorrow – 60% of their staff used to be European-trained, qualified bakers. Now they can’t recruit them.

“That is the missed growth opportunity. That’s what Brexit has done to us.”

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