A FORMER head of the UK Government’s Brexit department has admitted leaving the EU has made the UK poorer and an independent Scotland more likely.

Philip Rycroft, who was head of the Department for Leaving the European Union until 2019, said the barriers that now exist between the UK and its major EU markets act as a drag anchor on the UK and reduce productivity growth.

“Coming out of the EU means we will be poorer than otherwise we would have been,” said Rycroft.

Rycroft and former BBC journalist David Shukman were speaking at a sold-out event organised by the European Movement in Scotland.

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Rycroft added that he believed Brexit had made an independent Scotland more likely, but stressed there would be no way for Scotland to be part of the UK single market and the EU if it left the Union.

“A lot of people in Scotland were very angry that Scotland’s Brexit vote was subsidiary to the overall UK vote. That is a central fact that will be with us forever,” he said.

“An independent Scotland would have to choose between joining the EU or staying in the UK single market. There is no way round that choice.”

In 2021, Rycroft said that consent for the Union is "clearly fraying, particularly in Scotland".

In his opening remarks, Shukman called Brexit “the most catastrophic blunder any country has made”.

Rycroft went on to explain that following the Brexit referendum in 2016, the UK Government had no plan.

He told how he led a team that produced an impact study that demonstrated that any form of Brexit was worse for the UK economy than staying in.

He said Brexit had been far more complicated and difficult than the Leave side imagined.

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“They promised big trade deals with other nations. None of any scale have materialised, particularly a deal with the USA. We would need around 30 trade deals like an American one to replace what we have lost in EU trade,” said Rycroft.

Rycroft went on the say that Brexit came at a very bad time for the UK, citing the war in Ukraine and Russian belligerence and the subsequent energy crisis.

“Brexit has weakened a bond of trust and common cause that has existed between the UK and the European states since the end of the Second World War. In times like these, we need those relationships to be as strong as possible,” he added.

“All of the UK’s predominate interests lie in Europe, whoever is in power.”

David Clarke, chair of the European Movement in Scotland, said Rycroft and Shukman have been invited back for another conversation after the UK General Election, expected later this year.

He said: “Our guests, Philp Rycroft and David Shukman, delivered a conversation that gave unique insights into the turmoil inside government after the Brexit vote. They provided hugely informative analysis of what has happened since. We had two speakers of the highest quality and have asked them back.”