A trade deal with the European Union following a Brexit would “not come for free”, former business secretary Lord Mandelson warned.
The Labour peer, a former EU trade commissioner, said the Eurosceptic “dream” of an economic deal with the EU following Brexit would not be as extensive as current arrangements and could not be negotiated speedily.
The serving trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, said she hoped the UK would vote to remain in the EU and played down fears a proposed transatlantic deal would lead to US health providers targeting the NHS.
At an event organised by the Policy Network think-tank, she refused to speculate on the prospect of a UK-EU trade deal in the event of a Brexit.
But Lord Mandelson said: “I’m sure that the army of trade negotiators in Brussels would turn their full weight of expertise in our direction in negotiating what some people dream of as an alternative to full automatic access to Europe’s single marketplace in a free trade agreement.
“All I would say about such an agreement is it would not come easily, speedily, it would not at the end of the day cover all the trade that we have access to at the moment and it certainly would not come for free.”
Ms Malmstrom said there was a “very detailed plan” for the UK’s relationship with Brussels if the country voted to remain in the EU, following the deal thrashed out by David Cameron but would not be drawn on the position after a Brexit.
She said: “We do not speculate on what will happen after this. As a representative of the commission and also as a person, I really hope that the Brits will vote yes because we want you in the European Union, but that is a decision that you will have to make.