ONE of Vote Leave’s founders has admitted that the UK should have stayed in the single market after Brexit in order to “save a lot of trouble”.

Lord Daniel Hannan, who served as a Tory MEP from 2009 to 2018 and played a prominent role in the Brexit campaign, made the dramatic claim in an article for The Telegraph.

He wrote: "We should have stayed in the single market, but rejoining it now would be madness.

"Leaving the market was an upheaval, but it was the chance to deregulate. Instead, ministers are retaining rules we once fought to repeal."

The Board of Trade adviser’s comments come after backbench Tory MP Tobias Ellwood sparked a fierce row in the Conservative Party with an article suggesting the UK rejoin the EU’s single market.

In his column, Hannan claims he wanted a Swiss-style deal with the EU in which the country has partial access to its single market in exchange for a financial contribution.

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Despite this he says “positions hardened” on the Remain and Leave sides during the run-up to the referendum – making this argument more difficult.

On the day of the results, Hannan claims he was still anticipating a Swiss-style agreement – but as the process of leaving the EU became more complicated, realised the “moderate Brexit” had vanished from the agenda.

Hannan’s main issue with the ultimate decision to leave the single market appears to be that the Tory government has not utilised its “freedom” sufficiently.

“Having chosen total freedom over short-term convenience, we have made only the most paltry, milk-and-water attempts to exercise that freedom,” he claims. “Our trade policy remains barely less mercantilist than the EU’s – even our talks with Australia and New Zealand were prejudiced by agrarian protectionism.”

He goes on: “Again and again, ministers have shied away from choices that risk short-term criticism.

“Brexit could have created a freer, more prosperous and more global Britain. Instead, we are pursuing semi-socialist economic policies which poll well in the short term, but which condemn us to long-term poverty.”

Prominent EU law expert Jessica Simor QC suggested Hannan’s admission is a sign that the “tide is turning” – and told top Brexiteers to “take note”.

“When Lord Hannan of Kingsclere, a founder member of Vote Leave and major ERG headbanger, is writing positively about EU trade membership, you know something's changed,” another commenter added.

After Leave won the Brexit referendum, the SNP proposed to ensure Scotland could continue to access the single market. The party was ignored by the UK Government – while fellow Remain-voting Northern Ireland’s deal with the EU meant the province would get “the best of both worlds” according to Michael Gove.

Now, Northern Ireland’s economy is outperforming the rest of the UK’s. According to a recent report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, this is “partly an outcome of the Northern Irish Protocol … and trade and investment conditions as part of the EU’s single market and customs union”.

Michael Russell, who served as the Scottish Government's constitution secretary during the Brexit process, was frustrated with Hannan's comments.

"As [the Scottish Government] argued consistently up to and beyond May’s Lancaster House speech," he recalled. "But May was too scared of extremist Tories - like Hannan- to accept the compromise and therefore rejected the obvious ... comtinuing [sic] single market relationship."

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The SNP's Europe spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford MP added: "Hannan's comments simply highlight the fact that there was no 'vision' of Brexit, with the Leave campaign deliberately avoiding any possible discussion of what leaving the EU would actually mean - beyond the nonsense of "Brexit means Brexit!"

“The SNP repeatedly called for the Tory government to retain membership of the Single Market, including in the 2016 report by the Scottish Government: Scotland's Place in Europe. They ignored us, as ever, and dragged us out of the EU, and the world's biggest trading bloc, against our will.

The National:

“Scottish Government modelling shows that Scotland is disproportionately impacted by Brexit, with Scotland’s GDP set to be 6% lower – or £9 billion worse – by 2030."

She went on to say that independence would "put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands" and allow the country to work collaboratively on the international stage.

Meanwhile Brexit is hammering the rest of the economy “at the worst possible time”, according to the SNP.

A report released last week by the Food and Drink Federation revealed that exports to the EU were down 17.3% in the first quarter of 2022, accounting for more than £600 million lost.

Salmon was hit particularly hard with a drop of 25%.

A 10.7% increase in exports to the rest of the world did not make up for the losses of EU trade post-Brexit.

"The only way for Scotland to escape the long-term damage of Brexit is to become an independent country and re-join the EU and the biggest single trading bloc – one which is seven times bigger than the UK market,” said the SNP shadow secretary for environment Deidre Brock.