THE European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has told The National he is not surprised by the results of the UK Government’s secret economic analysis of leaving the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt said it was now the job of the European Parliament to limit the damage.

The leaked document from the Department of Exiting the EU, says Britain’s economy will be hit regardless of how soft or hard Brexit turns out to be.

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If the UK agrees a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, growth would be five per cent lower over the next 15 years, the analysis says. If the UK crashes out with no deal, growth would be reduced by eight per cent.

Even a soft Brexit with the UK remaining in the single market would still see growth fall by two per cent.

These calculations do not take into account any short-term hits to the economy from Brexit, such as the cost of adjusting the economy to new customs arrangements.

“The findings of this report should come as no surprise,” Verhofstadt said. “Brexit also puts in place challenges for many continental European countries, but failing to secure the integrity of the single market will have greater costs in the long run.

“The EU must stand united in defending its interests and reform in order to make the most of the opportunities available to a more united Europe.”

Meanwhile, the eurozone’s economy grew at its fastest pace for a decade last year, according to official figures.

The European Central Bank has been carrying out a huge stimulus programme, slashing its main interest rate to zero, and spending billions of euros a month on buying financial assets.

That’s helped the bloc of 19 countries that use the euro hike up growth to its highest level since 2007.

It is now regarded as one of the strongest parts of the global economy.