Business secretary Kemi Badenoch has told people not to “keep talking about a vote from seven years ago” and concentrate on growing the economy as she trumpeted a new trade deal worth approximately 50 times less the one the UK had within the EU.
The Tory grassroots favourite said the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a body most of whose members already have free trade deals with the UK – was a “deal about the future”.
She boasted the CPTPP deal was “certainly the biggest trade bloc we’ve entered since we joined the European Economic Community”, a trade bloc she campaigned enthusiastically for the hardest possible withdrawal from in 2016.
Ministers have said the deal would add £1.8 billion a year to the UK economy by the end of the decade – around 0.08 per cent of GDP, or less than the amount spent on PPE during the pandemic which had to be burned for being unsuitable.
And ministers said it could grow even higher in the future as Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador were said to be “interested” in joining.
In response to claims the deal was miniscule compared to the economic benefits of being within the EU’s single market and customs union, Ms Badenoch said: “We have left the EU so we need to look at what to do in order to grow the UK economy and not keep talking about a vote from seven years ago”.
Elsewhere she said it was “seizing the opportunities of our new post-Brexit trade freedoms to drive jobs and growth across the country” and Rishi Sunak said that “this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms”. It was loudly cheered by pro-Conservative titles such as the Daily Express, 34 of whose stories on its politics homepage today were about a vote from seven years ago.