Britain is likely to suffer a “catastrophic” Brexit because the Government is “ignoring” the advice of its own trade experts, a senior Canadian diplomat has said.
Jason Langrish, who was closely involved in the 10 years of negotiations that eventually led to a EU-Canada trade deal, said a British agreement with Europe was likely to take a decade to negotiate and, in the meantime, Britain could see its economy shrink by 4 per cent.
It comes days after the UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, resigned from his position and criticised "muddled-thinking” and “ill-founded arguments” on Brexit - comments that were widely interpreted as an attack on government ministers.
Sir Ivan attracted criticism for suggesting a British deal with the EU could take up to a decade to negotiate, but Mr Langrish said this was a “realistic timeframe”
Writing in the Observer, he said: “[Sir Ivan’s] letter makes clear that the UK representation to the EU in Brussels is being ignored by Downing Street.
“With just three months to go until perhaps the most important talks in Britain’s history, the negotiating team and the parameters for the discussions are still not in place.
Mr Langrish said UK officials he had spoken with were still in “campaign made” and claimed the British government “continues to plod along without a Brexit strategy”.
He added: “Were they willing to realistically discuss options for Brexit, as opposed to telling you what they intend to do in a very general sense while dismissing the obvious concerns, they may have a chance to minimise the damage from the potentially catastrophic decision to leave.
“This seems increasingly unlikely. Let’s hope that the courts, parliament and, ultimately, the electorate do it for them.”
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
The most likely scenario if a trade deal cannot be reached is reversion to World Trade Organisation rules, the Canadian said, and suggested this would mean a 4 per cent fall in UK GDP compared to a 1 per cent loss for the EU.
Mr Langrish spent years helping negotiation the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between the EU and Canada that many Brexit supporters have highlighted as an example of a potential British deal.
Speaking during the referendum campaign, Boris Johnson, now the Foreign Secretary, said: “I think we can strike a deal as the Canadians have done based on trade and getting rid of tariffs. It’s a very, very bright future I see.”
David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has also praised the Ceta deal and called it “a perfectly good starting point for our discussions with the [European] Commission".
The Independent has contacted Downing Street for comment.