31 January 2023

Foreign Secretary admits UK exit from EU has been ‘tricky’

31 January 2023

The Foreign Secretary has said it would be “probably a fair assessment” to suggest that the UK’s exit from the European Union has been “tricky”.

James Cleverly was responding to SNP MP Richard Thomson, who questioned him in the House of Commons over the impact of Brexit, exactly three years since the UK’s withdrawal.

The MP for Gordon referred to the negative outlook from the International Monetary Fund’s latest report, before asking: “Is there a single aspect of our prosperity or standing in the world that he can think of that has been enhanced in any way by the terms on which we’ve left?”

The Foreign Secretary replied: “I can assure the honourable gentleman that if he is suggesting that our exit from the European Union has been tricky, I think that is probably (a) fair assessment.”

Amid laughter from the Opposition benches, Mr Cleverly continued: “If he thinks that’s tough, imagine what extricating Scotland from one of the longest and most successful unions in human history would be like.

“And I have absolutely no doubt that our good professional and strong working relationship with Maros Sefcovic and his officials and other members of the European Commission will ultimately be successful.”

The Government and the European Commission have been locked in talks to resolve the dispute over post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade arrangements over the last few months.

Updating MPs on the talks, Mr Cleverly later said that having “professional but discreet negotiations are the route to success”.

Mr Thomson was not the only MP to raise Brexit during questions to Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) ministers, with Conservative James Sunderland suggesting it has actually helped improve the UK’s image around the world.

The MP for Bracknell said: “The recent Ipsos poll of 33 countries has found that people around the world are now more likely to believe that the UK is a positive influence than in 2016.

“Given our fantastic soft power, given our fantastic global presence around the world, does my right honourable friend agree that Opposition claims of reputational decline may be premature?”

The Foreign Secretary rebutted: “I think it’s noteworthy that 92% of Ukrainians believe the UK has had a positive influence on world affairs, second only to Canada, that 86% of Americans have a favourable opinion of the UK – 34% of Americans have a very favourable opinion of the UK, which is up 4% since Labour left power.”

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