Brexit: Number 10 slaps down minister who admitted price rises are hitting consumers

It is the second time in two days that Mark Garnier has found himself on the wrong side of Theresa May 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 27 October 2016 12:39 BST
Prices are rising in the wake of the falling pound
Prices are rising in the wake of the falling pound (iStock)

Downing Street has distanced itself from a minister who admitted consumers are suffering rising prices, saying the “important thing” is a strong economy.

International Trade Minister Mark Garnier said rising prices hitting households had been predicted in the wake of a Brexit vote and had now “transpired”.

But a No 10 spokesperson said people’s lives would still be improved by a fundamentally strong economy, which he said was demonstrated by new figures showing 0.5 per cent growth between July and September.

It is the second time in two days that Mr Garnier has deviated from No 10’s official line, after saying Theresa May’s oft-repeated “Brexit means Brexit” phrase does not give “much clarity”.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Mr Garnier said: “Consumers are going to start to see rising prices and there’s nothing we can do about that.

“That was a well-predicted effect of Brexit. The point was very clearly made by everybody. Brexit could easily result in a slump in the value of sterling. That has transpired.”

How the pound has struggled since Brexit

Asked if Downing Street agreed with his words, a spokesperson accepted the economy would need to “adjust” as the UK’s relationship with the EU changes, but added: “The most important issue here is the strength of the British economy.

“That’s what will allow us to protect British consumers and British industry as we go forward through the process of exiting the European Union.”

Sterling’s decline in recent weeks will mean consumers’ money will be worth less as they head to the shops. Consumer price growth already surged to 1 per cent in September, the highest level in almost two years.

But the Government would rather focus on the positive side to economic data released today showing that the UK defied expectations and grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2016.

When Mr Garnier was asked about Brexit this week, he said: “I’m not going to use the expression ‘Brexit means Brexit’ for obvious reasons – because it does not necessarily give that much clarity.”

The phrase, which initially represented Ms May’s determination to leave the EU, has come to be seen as a symbol of the lack of transparency around the Prime Minister’s objectives in her talks with European leaders.

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