Britain is suffering from the “catastrophic” impact of Brexit and should consider a closer trading relationship with the EU, according to the Asda chair.
Tory peer Lord Stuart Rose said trade between the UK and its neighbouring bloc was “not flowing smoothly” as he outlined why all sides should compromise to achieve closer ties.
Asked what impact Brexit has had on business, Lord Rose, a prominent Remain campaigner, told LBC: “It’s been catastrophic.”
The supermarket chief said working out the economic consequences of the UK’s exit had been “clouded” by the Covid crisis, war in Ukraine and global slowdown.
“This is going to be fuel for economists to argue about over the next 40 to 50 years about what impact it had,” he said. “We’ll never know.”
He added: “But trust me – I can smell it – we have suffered. We are the only economy I think in the G7, possibly in the G20, who has actually not yet recovered to pre-Covid levels. That tells you something.”
Lord Rose said there was little chance of the UK returning to the EU, but suggested that he welcomed calls from the Labour party about a closer trading relationship with Europe.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out the idea of rejoining the EU single market, but wants a new veterinary agreement to “tear down barriers” for our agri-food product exporters.
“I noticed this week the Labour Party said we won’t go back into the single market, but we would like to have a closer trading relationship with Europe,” said Lord Rose.
“Well I don’t care what we call it, we can call it the Mickey Mouse agreement as far as I’m concerned. What we need to do is we need to have a stronger trading relationship,” he added.
The Tory peer called on Rishi Sunak’s government to “sort out some of the nonsenses like we’ve got in the Northern Ireland protocol so that our two biggest trading partners … can trade better together. At the moment it’s not flowing smoothly.”
He added: “It appears that there’s a willingness on all sides now to come to some sort of compromise. It’s all about compromise.”
Sir Keir said last week he would set out his plans to “make Brexit work” in more detail soon. It came after his frontbencher Lisa Nandy said the party would look to align the UK with EU laws in more areas than just veterinary standards and security.
Meanwhile, there was no breakthrough in the post-Brexit row over the Northern Ireland Protocol following talks between foreign secretary James Cleverly and his European Commission counterpart Maros Sefcovic.
Mr Cleverly and Mr Sefcovic said they would continue to search for potential solutions in a “constructive and collaborative spirit” after they discussed a range of “existing challenges” in the virtual meeting.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “Recent signs of progress on the protocol are promising – Rishi Sunak must press on and stand up to the ERG hardliners before this window of opportunity closes.”