The leading campaigner for EU withdrawal was asked six times to set out how the promised “transformation of our economy” has been achieved – six years after the Leave vote.
But he was accused of failing to identify any change that has “made the life of businesses easier by leaving the EU”, being told, on BBC Radio 4: “If I was from the CBI, I might be tempted to say ‘is that it?’”
The leading business group has hit out at the punishing barriers from ending frictionless trade with the EU, which is forecast to trigger a 4 per cent GDP slump.
But Rishi Sunak, fearing attacks from Tory right-wingers, has rejected calls to soften the terms of the Christmas 2020 trade deal – or more short-term visas for badly-needed workers.
On Radio 4, Mr Gove, the levelling up secretary, was asked: “How have you made the life of businesses easier by leaving the EU?”
He pointed to having “got rid of the Common Agricultural Policy” and the UK being “in control of our own migration policy”, but was told: “That may be good in its own right, but doesn’t help business.”
Mr Gove argued removing EU agriculture rules would help the food and drink industry – “our biggest manufacturing sector” – even though it has been hit hardest by the new trade barriers.
“With gene editing, which is going to be a significant economic development that will help us grow, we are now creating a legislative framework that will allow businesses in that area and life sciences to grow,” he said.
Nick Robinson, the Today programme presenter, told Mr Gove: “If I was from the CBI, I might be tempted to say ‘Is that it? This great transformation of our economy promised six years ago – and you’re saying it’s the end of the CAP’”
Mr Gove is the second leading Brexit campaigner to struggle to identify any economic benefits, after David Davis admitted there have been “no major” gains.
The former Brexit secretary claimed the UK began delivery of Covid vaccines in 2020 before the rest of Europe – although it is strongly disputed that this was a Brexit freedom.
A report that the UK will seek “Swiss-style deal” has threatened to reignite the Tories’ Brexit wars, even though the EU is unlikely to make any such offer.
The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has claimed the “vast majority” of cross-Channel trade barriers can be removed, without explaining how.
But Mr Sunak insisted: “Let me be unequivocal about this. Under my leadership, the UK will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws.”