A Tory Cabinet minister has been mocked after he was accused of accidentally making a perfect argument against Brexit.

Brandon Lewis was trying to explain how Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal will benefit the region by allowing it to be part of both the EU and UK markets.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told BBC Question Time there will be a “unique competitive advantage in the world” in Northern Ireland because it can trade with the EU’s single market.

But he neglected to mention that, before Brexit happened, the whole of the UK could trade with the EU’s single market already.

That only ended because we left the EU.

Brandon Lewis was on the BBC's Question Time
Brandon Lewis was on the BBC's Question Time

Mr Lewis is right in the sense that, once the UK has set its own rules or reached its own trade deals with other countries, Northern Ireland will be able to benefit from those - as well as the rules of the EU single market.

But there will also be checks and declarations needed on goods that are sent from Britain to Northern Ireland, making internal UK trade more difficult.

There are currently grace periods that allow many products to be sent from Britain to Northern Ireland without those hurdles.

But those will expire by July, adding paperwork to some trade and banning other goods like chilled sausages altogether.

Trade will continue across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic
Trade will continue across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic

Mr Lewis said: “The protocol means that as part of the UK, Northern Ireland is going to have this unique competitive advantage in the world.

“Northern Ireland has the business has the ability to trade in and as part of the United Kingdom, as well as through the single market with the EU.

“That’s going to mean if you’re a business who deals with the UK and EU, the place to invest and grow your business is in Northern Ireland.

“It benefits there from being part of the UK.”

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said: “Which all of us had in the Single Market - could have had Brexit within the single market This Govt chose not to”.

Former Labour MP James Frith said: “Extraordinary explanation of the benefits of access to the single market, the EU and UK for Northern Ireland.

“A unique competitive advantage is right. And one we’ve just stamped on for ourselves. What a truly awful gaslighting government we have.”

Labour peer Andrew Adonis added: “Wouldn’t it be good if the whole of the UK has this ‘unique competitive advantage’! It’s called membership of the European Union”.