Brexit: Jeremy Hunt quizzed on rejoining single market as he concedes damaging trade barriers created by Brexit deal

Jeremy Hunt conceded there have been damaging trade barriers with the EU created by Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

But the Chancellor insisted the UK would find a way to improve trading ties with the EU without rejoining the single market and that immigration is “very important” for the economy after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said Brexit caused a “significant adverse impact” to trade volumes and business relationships between UK and EU firms.

Asked if rejoining the single market would boost growth, the Chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think having unfettered trade with our neighbours and countries all over the world is very beneficial to growth.

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“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 will take time.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt gives a television interview the morning after his autumn statement, outside the BBC studios in central London. Picture date: Friday November 18, 2022.

Pressed on the single market, he said: “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.”

On immigration, he said: “There needs to be a long-term plan if we’re going to bring down migration in a way that doesn’t harm the economy. We are recognising that we will need migration for the years ahead – that will be very important for the economy, yes.”

The Chancellor insisted Home Secretary Suella Braverman backs his plans, saying: “Her priority is to reduce illegal migration and deal with the small boats issue.”

He also defended aspects of the Autumn Statement when quizzed on the non-dom tax status that was raised by Rachel Reeves saying that the Treasury did not give him estimates on how much abolishing the non-dom tax status would raise, saying he would rather the super rich “stayed here and spent their money here”.

The Chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They said to me that they were very unsure about the figures that were being bandied around, as far as the savings were concerned.

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“Like me they wanted to be very sure they weren’t doing things that damaged the UK’s attractiveness. These are foreigners who could live easily in Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, they all have these schemes. All things being equal, I would rather they stayed here and spent their money here.”

Pressed whether the Treasury gave him a figure on how much abolishing the status would bring in, he said: “No, because we don’t agree with the figures that Labour have given.

“The Treasury did not tell me it was going to help the economy to do this, that’s why I chose not to do it.

“I’m not going to do anything that’s going to damage the long-term attractiveness of the UK, even though it gives easy shots to opposition parties, I think it would be the wrong thing to do in terms of creating jobs in the UK.”