KEIR Starmer has been accused of “spreading obvious falsehoods” after suggesting returning to the EU single market would not boost the UK’s economic growth. 

The Labour leader – who unveiled plans for a reformed UK on Monday alongside former prime minister Gordon Brown – told BBC Radio 4 he does not think there is a case for a “better Brexit”.

Asked if being part of the single market would boost economic growth, he told said: “No, at this stage, I don’t think it would. And there’s no case for going back to the EU or going back into the single market.”

He argued trade has “gone down” because “the deal that we’ve got is not a very good deal” before adding: “Do I think, just to take your question head on, that going back into years of wrangling, years of uncertainty, is going to help our economy? No, I don’t.” 

Top academics and rival politicians have torn into his comments, highlighting that all evidence has so far concluded the UK rejoining the single market would actually help the economy.

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University of Strathclyde historian Professor Tanja Bueltmann said she couldn’t work out what Starmer was trying to achieve by spreading “obvious falsehoods”.

She said on Twitter: “Bad enough to still argue that Brexit can be made to work, but to claim – against every single bit of evidence – that rejoining the single market would not boost economic growth in the UK…what on earth are you hoping to achieve by spinning lines like this Keir Starmer?

“I just don’t think it’s good in any way to spread such obvious falsehoods – that’s the kind of Brexit populism we’ve had for years. This approach really must stop.

“Any implication of single market not facilitating growth is just wrong.” 

Figures released earlier this year by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research showed Northern Ireland’s economic growth and profitability are being boosted by its links to EU markets.

The London-based economic think tank cited the Northern Irish Protocol as a cause for the province’s economic performance sitting “slightly” higher than the overall UK average.

Northern Ireland was able to retain special links with the EU after Brexit while the rest of the UK withdrew from the bloc under an agreement ensuring there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

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Stephen Gethins, former SNP MP and professor of international relations at the University of St Andrews’, added: “Not sure who is doing his [Starmer’s] economy briefing.

“This contradicts every single bit of Treasury analysis (and other credible sources) that Keir Starmer will have seen.”

A study from Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute in October also found that Brexit had cut exports from the UK to the EU by 16% compared to expected levels if the UK had voted to remain.

In its conclusion, the paper found that “Brexit has led to a significant decline in trade with the UK in almost all cases although by varying magnitudes”.

Last month, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt even admitted Brexit was a barrier to growth.

In a BBC interview, he conceded that having “unfettered trade with our neighbours” was good for economic growth.

The SNP’s Treasury spokesperson Alison Thewliss branded the comments by Starmer “absolute chumpery”.

She said on social media: “Absolute chumpery from Labour. Brexit is a significant drag on the UK economy.

“Scotland’s place in Europe can only be secured with independence.”

SNP MP and the party’s culture spokesperson John Nicolson added: “Keir Starmer tells Radio 4 Today he doesn’t think rejoining the single market would boost our economy. Extraordinary. Worse he says ‘there’s no case for it’ and that’s just nonsense.”

Drew Hendry, SNP trade spokesperson, said Starmer's claim was "ludicrous". 

He added: "With the Labour Party ruling out any return to the EU under Westminster control, independence is the only way to regain Scotland's place in Europe and get back on the path to prosperity.

"Keir Starmer's ludicrous claim that rejoining the world's largest single market wouldn't boost economic growth shows the Labour Party is just as bad as the Tories on Brexit and cannot be trusted with Scotland's economy."