“Brexit is an opportunity,” said the Prime Minister yesterday. “It’s an opportunity for us to get out there and embrace the world and I think the world is waiting.”
But it may not be an easy one to grasp. Also speaking yesterday, Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, described the exit process as Britain’s “biggest peacetime challenge”. That, he said, was “only just beginning to click into awareness” for those in government.
“The government needs to act as far as possible in a unified way and we have an issue there because of departmental government,” he added.
“What we don’t want to find is that at the first tap, this falls apart like a chocolate orange.”
Ministers rebuffed Morse’s warning, but there is broad agreement around Westminster that difficulties lie ahead.
The Brexit department has suffered a difficult week, with warnings raised about the nuclear regulation, consumer air travel and customs declarations – and a lukewarm reaction to the so-called “great repeal bill”.
The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that even if Brexit ended up reducing the UK’s annual trend productivity growth rate by as little as 0.1 per cent over 50 years, the economy would be 4.8 per cent smaller than it would have been otherwise.
That is equivalent to a cost in lost GDP of almost £100bn in today’s money, which would “translate into a £36bn hit to tax revenues”, says The Independent.
To combat such gloomy predictions, Brexit secretary David Davis unveiled his three “position papers” covering nuclear regulation, judicial and administrative proceedings, and privileges and immunities. The UK, he said, seeks “a smooth and orderly end” to the jurisdiction of the European courts in Britain.
But so far, says The Economist, the UK’s intransigent position represents a start break from the past. “The argument seems to be that Britain must rid itself of all traces of the EU like someone leaving an area of intense radiation needs a complete detox,” says its Buttonwood column.