THERE are no discernable benefits of Brexit, the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink has said.

James Withers also rubbished claims that leaving the EU had enhanced “global Britain” and mocked the appointment of a new Minister for Brexit Opportunities.

The scathing assessment came as a Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee found that the “only detectable impact” of leaving the EU so far has been to increase the burdens on businesses.

In a major new report, the spending watchdog said firms have faced higher costs, more paperwork and border delays since Britain’s withdrawal.

That conclusion has been borne out in the experience of Scotland’s food and drinks firms, according to Withers.

Speaking after Jacob Rees-Mogg was named Minister for Brexit Opportunities, the Scottish Food and Drink boss said he was yet to find evidence of any – adding that many exporters have simply “given up” on trading with EU companies. He also called for action to cut the “tsunami” of red tape facing businesses since Brexit, and warned the worst trade disruption was yet to come.

READ MORE: MSPs' fears as bill gives UK ministers 'considerable powers' over Holyrood

Giving his thoughts on the new Westminster report, he told BBC Radio Scotland: “It’s a statement of reality, which I suppose contrasts with some of the denial we've seen in the last couple of years of what the actual impact of Brexit has been.

“Certainly for food and drink companies across Scotland doing business with what was our biggest market, the European Union, has become more costly, more complex, it's a lot higher risk as well. And it's much more difficult to make money out of now, which is why some big businesses are still doing it and they're just, you know, trying to absorb that costs. But we know some smaller businesses have just given up altogether.”

Withers said there were ways to soften the blow for Scottish firms, however, as he urged the UK Government to recognise that UK businesses are still operating to EU standards. He gave the example of New Zealand, which has a “much more beneficial arrangement for selling their goods to the European Union”. “Indeed,” Withers explained, “if you're in New Zealand, it’s easier to send red meat to the European Union 10,000 miles away, than it is for us to send it so 30 miles over the Channel.”

The Scottish industry boss warned that more disruption was on the way, with full physical goods checks on products going from the UK to the EU yet to be fully implemented. He raised concerns that the UK is not “fit and ready” to trade with Europe with the strict new border controls.

Moving on to the appointment of a new Brexit minister in the UK Government, Withers told the BBC: “Jacob Rees-Mogg became minister for Brexit Opportunities yesterday. If you're in the food and drink industry, we're struggling to find any. In fact we’re struggling to find one so far. I read the UK Government document last week – which was this ‘Benefits of Brexit’, 100 pages – and I'm none the wiser as to where these benefits.”

The National: Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was not sitting close enough to Boris Johnson in the Commons to feed him the Savile attack line

He added: “You know, we're trying to be global Britain we're told and yet I'm seeing, particularly small and medium sized businesses, doing less trade now than they were pre-Brexit. Let's think about how we can put the support in place to make that a bit easier.

“Removing some of this tsunami of red tape that's been introduced by Brexit and these barriers that have been erected would be a good start. And there are plenty of models out there of other countries that trade with the EU that make that possible. So let's learn from these other countries, grasp the nettle this year, be honest about the challenges being introduced, and try and work some improvements.”

In its report, the Public Accounts Committee found that while it was difficult to untangle how much of the hit to trade since the end of the Brexit transition on December 31 2020 has been caused by the pandemic and how much by Brexit, it was “clear that EU exit has had an impact”.

READ MORE: Major Tory donor declares Boris Johnson is 'past the point of no return'

The cross-party groups of MPs also warned over the potential for lengthy border delays and lorry queues once passenger numbers return to normal as expected later this year, given that new border arrangements have not yet been tested at levels seen before the pandemic struck.

The committee said this could be compounded by further checks at ports, such as Dover, under the EU’s new Entry and Exit system.

In its critical assessment of the impact of Brexit on the UK border, it slammed the Government over repeated delays to introduce full import controls, which are due to to be phased in from last month, and called for an end to “overpromising”.

It dismissed the Government’s aim to create the “most effective border in the world” by 2025 as being “optimistic, given where things stand today”.

A UK Government spokeswoman commented: "Traders have adapted well to the introduction of full customs controls on 1 January, with minimal disruption at the border and inbound freight flowing effectively through ports.

"We are continuing to ensure that businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world's fastest growing markets, including one-to-one advice through the free-to-use Export Support Service."