THE UK Government’s new Brexit opportunities minister has claimed there is little evidence to suggest Brexit has damaged trade – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, during a visit to the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, claimed Brexit has been “extremely beneficial” for Britain.

That’s despite a recent report from Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee concluding the “only detectable impact” of leaving the EU so far has been to increase the burden on businesses.

New ONS trade figures also show UK exports to the EU have fallen by £20 billion since 2018. And a survey published by the British Chambers of Commerce this week found 71% of businesses feel the UK’s Brexit deal is not enabling them to grow or increase sales.

In the first 10 months of 2021, exports to the EU were down by 12% on pre-pandemic levels, while imports were down by 20%.

Nevertheless, Rees-Mogg, who was appointed to his new role earlier this month, said a recent decline in exports was a result of pandemic-related trade disruption.

The Tory minister told the BBC Covid had caused "the most enormous disruptions to supply chains".

"We've had containers simply being stuck the wrong place, being stuck in Chinese ports, being stuck in the port of Los Angeles," he added.

"This has been a global trade issue – and we do have to recover from the problems of Covid."

The National: Rees-Mogg visited the Port of Felixstowe Rees-Mogg visited the Port of Felixstowe

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Pressed on whether leaving the EU was to blame, Rees-Mogg said: "I think Brexit has been extremely beneficial for the country.

"I think the evidence that Brexit has caused trade drops is few and far between."

In its report, the Public Accounts Committee recognised it is 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. But the cross-party MPs found it was “clear that EU exit has had an impact”.

In October, the Office for Budget Responsibility reported that both imports and exports with the EU had been affected by Brexit and that both were on track to end up 15% lower as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

It cited a study from the Centre for European Reform, which warned that month that the UK's trade in goods with the EU was 15.7% – equating to £12.6bn – lower than it would have been without Brexit.

Last week, Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers rubbished claims that leaving the EU had enhanced “global Britain”.

Speaking after Rees-Mogg was named Minister for Brexit Opportunities, Withers said he was yet to find evidence of any benefits – 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.

During his visit to Felixstowe, Rees-Mogg insisted Brexit was “already a success” and vowed to "cut through the thicket" of red tape.