As Brexit secretary David Frost resigned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet at one of the most sensitive moments of negotiations with the EU, let’s remember what he said in June 2016, before the EU referendum.
Lord Frost, who was the leading Brexit negotiator with the European Union since January 2020, insisted in September this year that the UK is “embarked on a great voyage” out of the bloc.
But before the referendum more than five years ago, Frost admitted no Brexit scenario could be as good as being part of the EU.
“In short, even the best-case outcome can’t be as good as what we have now; and we won’t be able to negotiate the best-case outcome anyway, because in real life you never can,” he wrote in a Portland Communications report entitled ‘Britain Votes Leave: What Happens Next’.
He said: “There is no doubt that leaving would be fraught with economic risk. It would be a step into uncertainty and, in many key respects, into the unknown. If this is the situation on 24th June, we will face an anxious and potentially turbulent time. It will require politicians and businesses to unite and work together to find the best possible route to a more settled future.”
Leave vote ‘will be risky’, according to David Frost
Frost admitted Brexit is a “mammoth undertaking” and that the task itself shows how “risky” the Leave vote will be.
He said: “First, can any future trading arrangements, as a matter of theory, be as good as the current ones provided by membership? Second, is it possible to negotiate such arrangements, as a matter of practical politics? I have doubts on both points.
“[In the EU] there are no tariffs, no paperwork, and no administrative barriers: the same rules apply to all goods wherever they are made, and changes in rules or standards do not create barriers to trade because they instantly apply to everyone.
“Every time either country changes its internal rules (for example on the standards for a product or the way a service must be delivered) a trade barrier is created.”
UK ‘has to make concessions to get EU deal’, Brexit Secretary says
He added: “If, as in the case of the UK, a country is already part of a customs union and has already adapted its trading arrangements to it, the case for change has to be overwhelming. It isn’t.
“Can any of these [models such as Norway, Switzerland, Canada] be economically better for Britain? It’s fairly easy to see that the answer must be… no.
“Britain will be demandeur and so it will be Britain that has to make the concessions to get the deal. True, other countries will want deals too, but they won’t be under anything like the same time pressure and can afford to make us sweat.”