Brexit: Jeremy Hunt admits UK-EU trade barriers but rejects rejoining single market

The UK’s finance minister has said he recognises that Brexit has brought trade barriers with the EU, but rejected calls for Britain to rejoin the single market, arguing that most obstacles can be removed over time.

Jeremy Hunt’s comments come amid a growing clamour from the business world for Britain to re-enter the European market that enables free trade via common rules and standards.

Many importers and exporters complain they have been severely hindered by red tape and costs since Brexit, and numerous studies show the economy has suffered as a result.

Speaking the morning after he set out an austere budget plan to address the UK’s financial woes, Hunt said «unfettered trade with our neighbours and countries all over the world is very beneficial to growth», but argued that could happen without rejoining the EU’s trading mechanism.

«I have great confidence that over the years ahead, we will find outside the single market we are able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU. It’ll take time, there’s a transition as you deliver something like Brexit which obviously people have voted for, and we must make a great success of,» the finance minister told BBC radio.

«I don’t think it’s the right way to boost growth, because it would be 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 will more than compensate for those advantages,» he said, arguing that British innovation provided «tremendous potential for growth».

Jeremy Hunt’s budget came on the same day the government’s official forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), said in its updated economic outlook that «the latest evidence suggests that Brexit has had a significant adverse impact on UK trade».

His acknowledgement of numerous obstacles is in sharp contrast to Boris Johnson’s assertion, as prime minister in 2020, that his newly-struck post-Brexit trade deal would bring «no non-tariff barriers to trade», and «if anything allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our European friends».