LIZ Truss’s declaration this week that raising taxes will “choke off” growth would have been almost funny, were the UK economy not in such a sorry state right now.

It was close to laughable because it came from someone who now seems to be among the biggest fans of Brexit.

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Ms Truss’s seeming efforts during the Conservative leadership contest to burnish her supposed economic credentials have been truly fascinating.

This is, we should remember, the same Cabinet minister who has portrayed trade agreements with tiny benefits, such as those with Australia and New Zealand, as big deals.

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She has even hyped up what have effectively been trade deals which have rolled over the arrangements the UK had with other countries when it was part of the European Union. And we have also heard Ms Truss make a very big deal indeed of a trade agreement with Japan that essentially mirrored the one the EU did with the East Asian nation the previous year.

In October 2020, unveiling the UK’s trade deal with Japan, then Secretary of State for International Trade Ms Truss declared: “Today is a landmark moment for Britain. It shows what we can do as an independent trading nation, as we secure modern and bespoke provisions in areas like tech and services that are critical to the future of our country and the reshaping of our economy.”

For all the fanfare surrounding the signing of the deal with Japan emanating from Ms Truss and other Brexiters, the fact of the matter was the UK was not really gaining anything significant which it would not have had as part of the EU.

Ms Truss also said of the deal with Japan back in October 2020: “Trade is a powerful way to deliver the things people really care about. At its heart, this deal is about creating opportunity and prosperity for all parts of our United Kingdom and driving the economic growth we need to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.”

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It makes you wonder why Ms Truss now considers it a positive that the UK left the largest free trade bloc in the world, the EU, if she is aware of the importance of trade in delivering what people care about.

Ms Truss talked in October 2020 about how the deal with Japan “opens a clear pathway to membership of the comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership – which will open new opportunities for British business and boost our economic security”.

You do not need to be an economic genius to work out that being part of the world’s biggest free trade bloc, right on your doorstep, delivers far more of the prosperity most people presumably want than some future prospect of joining the far-off TPP.

When the Australia trade deal was agreed in June 2021, amid grave worries about the impact among the farming community, Ms Truss declared: “This deal delivers for Britain and shows what we can achieve as a sovereign trading nation. It is a fundamentally liberalising agreement that removes tariffs on all British goods, opens new opportunities for our services providers and tech firms, and makes it easier for our people to travel and work together.”

There was, predictably, also more waxing lyrical about paving the way to join the TPP.

Angus Brendan MacNeil, chairman of the House of Commons’ cross-party International Trade Committee, has been far less impressed by the Australia deal.

Speaking as this committee delivered its verdict on the Australia agreement, and warned the UK Government against “overselling the benefits of trade deals”, Mr MacNeil said earlier this month: “This trade deal will not have the transformative effects ministers would like to claim.

“The Government’s own impact assessment shows an increase in GDP (gross domestic product) of just 0.08 per cent as a result of the deal, and the balance of gains and losses varies between economic sectors and nations of the UK.

“We have also found multiple examples where the Government’s flat-footed negotiating has led to significant concessions being given to the Australians without securing all possible benefits in return.”

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The Theresa May government’s forecasts, published in November 2018, showed Brexit would, with an average free trade deal with the EU, result in UK GDP in 15 years’ time being 4.9% lower than if the country had stayed in the bloc if there were no change to migration arrangements. Or 6.7% worse on the basis of zero net inflow of workers from European Economic Area countries. The Conservative Government of which Ms Truss is part has clamped down dramatically on immigration.

Ms Truss, if she does want to do a bit better on the economy, might want to reflect on what a 0.08% GDP gain actually means relative to a 4.9% or 6.7% (or similar) loss, and perhaps reappraise her degree of enthusiasm about the Australia deal. And she might want to think again about whether it would be better for the UK to be a member of the European single market (although chance would be a fine thing in terms of a change of heart).

She might also want to think about what Brexit did in terms of the ease of people from the UK and EU travelling and working together.

The New Zealand trade agreement benefits are even smaller than those projected from the Australia deal. The Department for International Trade has observed its “sensitivity analysis…suggests the estimated impact on long run GDP could vary between 0.02% and 0.03% (0.023% and 0.034% respectively, to three decimal places)”.

It only takes a quick look at the figures to see that Brexit is choking off economic growth to a huge extent and will continue to do so.

And Ms Truss has made plain her view, apparently, that she does not want economic growth to be choked off. So her Brexit stance is puzzling.

Also perplexing is her determination to scrap the planned rise in UK corporation tax from 19% to 25% from next April, a move announced by her leadership rival, former chancellor Rishi Sunak, in his Budget in March last year.

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Her argument seems to be that business investment in the UK will benefit if the country foregoes annual revenues estimated at £17 billion from the planned corporation tax rise by scrapping it.

However, the Tories’ dramatic cutting of the main corporation tax rate from 28% in 2010 to 19% seemed to do little or nothing to boost business investment, as companies held on to the money freed up by this huge giveaway or paid it out in dividends.

And then investment took a hit after the June 2016 referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU.

Mr Sunak, for his part, has presided over a dismal UK economic performance.

So, while both remaining candidates in the contest to be the next prime minister might be attempting to portray themselves as saviours of the economy, people should look at the reality of the situation and decide for themselves whether they believe the pair’s claims are in any way credible.