LONDON – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday defended Brexit, insisting that leaving the European Union had brought significant achievements and offered a “huge opportunity”, three years after the withdrawal agreement entered into force.
“In the three years since leaving the EU, we have made huge strides in harnessing the freedoms unlocked by Brexit to tackle generational challenges,” Mr Sunak said in a statement ahead of Tuesday’s three-year anniversary since the country formally left the EU.
He said Brexit was a “huge opportunity to deliver” on his priorities on growth, employment and social mobility.
The Prime Minister – who will also mark 100 days in office this week – said Britain had “forged a path as an independent nation with confidence” and “that momentum has not slowed”.
He said this included Europe’s fastest vaccine roll-out, trade deals with 70 countries and “taking back control of our borders”.
The statement came as Mr Sunak faces numerous challenges, with thousands of British workers launching waves of strike action over pay outpaced by soaring inflation as the cost-of-living crisis hits millions.
Mr Sunak did not mention the problems in Northern Ireland surrounding post-Brexit trading agreements that had led to months of negotiations between London and Brussels.
A YouGov poll last week found that 63 per cent think the government is handling the issue of Brexit badly.
In a jargon-heavy statement, Mr Sunak said progress had been made in “a range of key growth areas”.
He cited economic reforms, including the opening of free ports that exist outside normal tax and Customs territory, as well as regulatory reforms to the financial sector.
Mr Sunak also included a Bill going through Parliament to scrap all the EU laws automatically retained post-Brexit and a new system of subsidies for businesses without “unnecessary EU bureaucracy”.
Britain is still pushing for association with the EU’s Horizon Europe scientific research exchange programmes, Mr Sunak added, but is “working hard on developing a domestic alternative”.
Britain has complained of being excluded in breach of the post-Brexit deal from the flagship programme, which funds research, nuclear regulator Euratom and the Copernicus satellite monitoring group. AFP