Britain facing 'catastophic' Brexit because Government is dismissing trade experts

Canadian diplomat says UK government is 'plodding along without a strategy' and accuses ministers of ignoring experts

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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.”

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.

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