Speaking on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit vote, the former minister said it may never become clear whether leaving the EU had brought any economic dividend as there was “so much else going on”.
Lord Frost, who negotiated the Brexit deal before resigning over the government’s broader direction, said: “I’m not sure it is ever going to be clear in that sense whether it’s succeeded or failed because so much else is going on and extracting the causality about this is always going to be extremely difficult.”
Appearing at the UK in a Changing Europe think tank’s annual conference, Lord Frost insisted Brexit was working, although it was still unfinished.
He said: “We have no cause for regrets about the decision the country has taken and the solutions to the remaining problems are not to be found in going backwards, but in completing the process and following through on its logic.”
On the economic impact, Lord Frost said there was “a huge amount of noise in the figures” from the pandemic, supply chain disruption and the war in Ukraine, making it “hard to be confident what if any changes in UK trade are due to Brexit”.
While he noted that there had been “some transitional impact on trade”, he said comparisons with other major economies suggested there was “no obvious Brexit-related lag”.
But he urged Brexit supporters to be “honest” about the “trade-offs” involved in leaving the EU instead of “pretending nothing is going on”.
He said: “I don’t think it’s reasonable to say, as some pro-Brexit people do, ‘nothing to see here in the figures, don’t bother looking at them, it really is not important’.
“I don’t think that’s fair, you have to look at the figures, they’re telling you something, I just don’t believe they bear the constructions that are put on them at the moment.”
Lord Frost added the “crucial test” was about democracy, arguing that Brexit had delivered democracy because “we can now change everything by elections”.
He said: “Democracy counts. Brexit automatically delivers democracy. So it is working.”
The peer went on to say that Brexit was “not fully complete yet”, with more work needing to be done to address the Northern Ireland Protocol and remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
He added that Brexit was “not a thing in itself” but “the beginning of a broader project of national renewal”.