MICHAEL Gove has been accused of wilfully ignoring the facts in an effort to avoid accountability for the “long-term damage” caused by Brexit.

The SNP said that the Cabinet Office minister and his Tory colleagues were “sticking their heads in the sand” rather than face up to the realities of Brexit’s impact on the UK economy.

The news comes after a newly released report found that Brexit and Covid had combined to cause the UK to lose market share in key global economies.

The report, from Aston University’s Lloyd’s Banking Group Centre for Business Prosperity, said that: “In some key export destinations – Germany, the US, and China – the UK seems to have suffered a sharper decline, experienced a slower recovery, and seen its global competitiveness dwindle.”

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“The UK’s decline in exports to the US appeared the sharpest in both absolute and relative terms and the most prolonged among the major European countries (except for France).”

The research, based on United Nations trade statistics, adds: “The combination of Covid, Brexit and the UK’s long-term productivity challenges will put British businesses in an adverse position for the foreseeable future.”

On Saturday March 6, the UK Statistics Authority officially reprimanded Gove’s Cabinet Office for the use of unpublished and unverified data in an attempt to disprove allegations that Brexit had caused a massive fall in exports through British ports.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said a survey of its international members showed UK export volumes had dropped by 68% in January.

In rebuttal, the Cabinet Office cited unpublished figures saying the number of vehicles passing through British ports was “close to normal, at 95% outbound and 96% inbound, in spite of the impact of Covid lockdowns on trade”.

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The UK Statistics Authority said the Cabinet Office had made “claims based on unpublished data, and as such these figures cannot be verified. It is our expectation that any data used publicly by government should be published in an accessible form, with appropriate explanations of context and sources”.

The RHA said that they had been talking about goods, not vehicles, as many trucks were returning to the continent empty because of issues imposed on UK businesses by Brexit.

Now, the SNP have accused Gove and the London Tories of “conveniently ignoring” the facts.

The National: Deputy Leader of the SNP Stewart Hosie

The party’s shadow cabinet minister, Stewart Hosie MP (above), said: “As the Brexit blows to Scotland and the UK’s economy keep on coming – and businesses and communities suffer - the Tories are doing what they do best and sticking their heads in the sand. And this is only the beginning, with more changes, barriers, and economic and social problems still to come.

"Boris Johnson’s extreme Brexit – imposed on us against our will – has already cost Scotland almost £4bn and is projected to cost every person the equivalent of £1600 in added costs, red tape and barriers to trade. But Michael Gove is conveniently ignoring these facts in an effort to evade transparency and accountability – as the Tories so often do.

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"In May Scotland faces a choice of two futures - the long-term damage of Brexit and Tory austerity cuts at Westminster, or the opportunity to protect our place in Europe and build a strong, fair and green recovery as an independent country.

“With both votes SNP in May we can put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands - not Boris Johnson's."

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said Brexit will result in the "long-run loss of productivity of around 4 per cent compared with remaining in the EU" and that "we now expect the temporary near-term disruption to EU-UK goods trade to reduce GDP by 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year [2021]”.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We will always stand by Scottish businesses - whether that's helping them deal with Covid-19 through support packages worth £280 billion, getting the US to lift tariffs on Scotch whisky, or ensuring they benefit from the new free trade agreements we are striking around the world.

"We know that some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship with the EU, and that’s why - in addition to the £20m SME Brexit Support Fund - we are operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers.  

"The latest available data shows that overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU are back to their normal levels."