Time is running out to prove Brexit is not a historic failure

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Still, if nothing else, surely we can all agree that when it comes to “axing red tape”, the return of the crown stamp on to the side of pint glasses counts as a significant victory over those pesky Brussels bureaucrats. Ditto removing the ban on selling in pounds and ounces.

It’s pretty weak stuff from the Downing Street spinners. Perhaps all those parties are catching up with them. What has happened to all the big free trade deals that were promised? In their search for benefits, officials are scraping the bottom of the barrel with such fury that they have tunnelled through to the antipodes.

The Prime Minister can talk all he likes about “landmark deals” with Australia and New Zealand but by the Government’s own admission, neither will move the dial when it comes to GDP or cheaper goods.

The pacts are supposed to “pave the way” for Britain’s entry to the £9 trillion Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose members include major economies such as Canada, Japan and Mexico. But membership of this big club remains aspirational for now and there are serious questions about the overall benefits to exporters given the physical distance between the UK and the Pacific region.

 It has also been pointed out that the UK may be required to make the kind of compromises that Brexiteers persistently cited as one of the main reasons for leaving the EU.

The big prize remains an agreement with America but as the one-year anniversary of Joe Biden’s inauguration approaches, a transatlantic tie-up remains as far beyond our reach as ever. The unfortunate reality anyway is that for all the political hot air that they generate, most free-trade deals have very little impact owing to their limited scope.

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