Deal or no deal, UK is on slippery slope after Brexit, experts warn
Britain's economy will be worse off after Brexit whether it leaves the EU with a free trade deal, single market access, or with no deal at all, according to leaked analysis, feeding the view that the UK government is badly prepared.
The 'EU Exit Analysis Cross Whitehall Briefing', dated this January, is another blow for Prime Minister Theresa May, under fire for lacking leadership and a clear Brexit strategy as she negotiates Britain's departure from the bloc.
A spokesman for the prime minister said that the paper, which had been leaked to BuzzFeed News, was only an initial assessment that had not considered the government's preferred goal of a bespoke future relationship with the EU after leaving.
The spokesman said the "partial" work had been completed by the Brexit ministry.
A junior minister from the department, Steve Baker, rebuffed calls for the government to release its full impact report by saying it was not ready and for lawmakers to be cautious because such analysis had been proved wrong.
"It is there to test ideas," Mr Baker told parliament.
But as the British government tried to distance itself from the paper, opposition politicians and some from within the ruling Conservative Party said enough was enough.
"It is the right of the public to know about their livelihoods and their future and for the government not to publish this is deeply irresponsible and dishonest," said Chris Leslie, an EU campaigner from the Labour Party.
"This is a cover up - pure and simple, and it stinks."
The leaked paper again deepened divisions in parliament over Brexit, with Leave campaigners accusing EU supporters of trying to undermine the government in its negotiations to unravel more than 40 years of union with the EU.
The reported analysis suggested that if Britain agreed a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the EU, growth over the next 15 years would be 5pc lower than current forecasts.
Under a no-deal situation, in which Britain returns to World Trade Organisation rules, the United Kingdom's growth will be reduced by 8pc over the same period.
If the prime minister can negotiate continued access to the single market through membership in the European Economic Area, long-term growth will be 2pc lower, the analysis predicted.
Every sector of the economy would be negatively affected in all three scenarios, according to the report, with chemicals, clothing, manufacturing, food and drink, and cars and retail the hardest hit.
Brexit campaigners questioned the veracity of the forecasts, employing the same arguments during the referendum campaign in 2016 when they dubbed predictions of economic collapse if Britain left the bloc "project fear".
"It's simply wrong," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP and supporter of a clean break with the EU.