Minister admits more needed to ease trade after damning Brexit business survey – UK politics live

Key events

The Department for Education has announced that its holiday activities and food programme for schools in England will continue throughout 2023. The DfE says it has set aside £200m for the programme, which provides money to councils so that they can run clubs for pupils over the holidays, with free meals available for children who normally qualify for free school meals.

NHS expects surge in demand after ambulance workers’ strike

Demand for NHS services is expected to go up after yesterday’s ambulance strike in England and Wales. In an interview this morning Saffron Cordery, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said that demand was “significantly down” yesterday, but that that would change. She said:

What we think today, tomorrow, the next few days will bring us, actually, is quite a surge in demand for emergency treatment, people turning up at A&E, potentially calling ambulances because they are in a condition that has significantly deteriorated.

My colleague Caroline Davies has the full story here.

Rees-Mogg dismisses analysis saying UK GDP is 5.5% lower than it would have been without Brexit as ‘absurd’

As reported here yesterday, the Centre for European Reform has published an analysis claiming that Britain’s GDP is 5.5% lower than it would have been without Brexit.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary and leading Brexit enthusiast, has published an article for the Daily Express criticising the methodology used by the CER. The CER has identified a clutch of countries whose economic performance closely matched the UK’s in the decade or more before Brexit, and it has compared the performance of this “doppelgänger” UK (a statistical fiction, based on the performance data for the comparator countries) since 2016 with the performance of the real UK. Rees-Mogg claims this approach is “absurd”. He says:

[The model] maintains that by membership of the EU the UK economy will do better but then goes on to argue that this country should not be compared to the economies of Germany, France and Italy but to faster growing nations. These two arguments contradict each other.

If as the CER says the major continental economies are inherently slower growth than the UK surely we would want to be less associated with them and freer to operate globally. The fact that, since we voted to leave, we have performed better than all the major European economies save France, shows our success.

From the third quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2022 the UK grew at 6.2 percent, Germany 5.4 percent, France 7.6 percent, Italy 4.2 percent and Spain 5.9 percent.

Rees-Mogg is not the first person to criticise the CER methodology on these grounds, and in his report the CER’s John Springford responds to these arguments. He does not accept that France, Germany and Italy would be better comparison countries to provide data on what would have happened to a “doppelgänger” UK that did not vote for Brexit in 2016. He argues:

Just because countries are of a similar size in a similar region, they do not necessarily have a similar economic model or growth rates. Better doppelgänger countries may be found elsewhere by the algorithm. Indeed, the UK’s growth rate between the introduction of the euro in 1999 and 2016 was markedly different to France, Germany and Italy’s. It was far closer to that of the US.

UK had worst growth across G7 in Q3, latest figures show

The UK is currently the worst-performing G7 nation in terms of quarterly economic growth, my colleague Graeme Wearden writes on his business live blog. He says:

The 0.3% contraction in UK GDP in Q3 reported this morning is worse than Japan’s 0.2% fall in GDP, while Canada and the US both expanded pacily, by around 0.7%.

France (+0.2%), Germany (+0.4%) and Italy (+0.5%) all grew in July-September too.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, claims this shows the Tories have lost control of the economy.

NEW: GDP data has been revised down, leaving the UK with the worst growth in the G7 in the last quarter.

The Tories have lost control of the economy and are leaving millions of working people paying the price.

Only Labour has a proper plan to get our economy growing.

— Rachel Reeves (@RachelReevesMP) December 22, 2022

Graeme has more on this story on his business live blog.

Minister admits more needed to ease trade after damning Brexit business survey

Good morning. Two years ago on Saturday, Boris Johnson announced that he had finalised a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Never at a loss for superlatives, he said it was “the biggest trade deal yet, worth £660bn”. In his statement he described it as:

A deal which will if anything should allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our European friends.

He also claimed – falsely – that under its terms there would be “no non-tariff barriers to trade”.

This morning the British Chambers of Commerce has published a damning report on how that trade deal (the trade and cooperation agreement, or TCA, to give it its formal title, is performing, and it’s damning. As my colleague Heather Stewart reports in her write-up, more than 1,000 business leaders were surveyed and three quarters of them said the deal was not helping them to increase sales, or to expand. Here is her story.

And here is the chart that shows the key result.

Survey on impact of Brexit trade deal Photograph: BCC

I’ll post more from the survey soon.

There has not been much response from the government, but Mark Spencer, the farming minister, has been giving interviews and he told Times Radio this morning he claimed the government did want to reduce “red tape” for exporters to the EU. He said:

There’s always more that we can do to try and ease the way and the passage of trade. We’re very keen to do that. We’re a free and open trading nation, we want to work closely with our EU colleagues, and we want to try and reduce that red tape, if there is any red tape, on their side of the Channel. So, of course, we want to keep those channels of trade open in both directions.

In London parliament is not sitting. But in Edinburgh Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, is taking questions at 12pm, and then MSPs are due to conclude the debate on the gender recognition reform (Scotland) bill. The final vote is due at 2.45pm. It had been expected yesterday but, as my colleague Libby Brooks reports, the debate ran over time.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at [email protected].

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