Can Theresa May’s plan make UK richer?

Prime Minister Theresa May. Credit: Press Association

There is nothing that the prime minister said just now that would change the predictions of the government's own economists that Brexit will see the UK becoming a bit poorer than it would otherwise be over the coming 15 years.

It is true that they have not yet modelled her desired version of our future economic relationship.

But what she outlined would give us inferior market access compared with Norway and superior access compared with Canada.

So, on the government’s own modelling, UK GDP would be between two and five per cent smaller by the 2030s.

Which is not to say their economists are the kosher oracle. But they are her official soothsayers. So there is something slightly weird in the PM announcing a plan she's aware will make us poorer.

That said she has been braver than some thought she might be in trying to mitigate the costs of Brexit.

She has, for example, said the UK will apply to be members of EU agencies regulating medicines, aviation and chemicals.

  • Watch Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in full

So she is accepting the pragmatic case for remaining subject to EU rules and the European Court of Justice in those industries.

Which begs the question why be a rule taker for planes, pills and powders, and less so for cars, food and other stuff.

This pragmatism will raise fears among purist Brexiters that she's building a Trojan horse that will ultimately see the UK trading market access for subservience to Brussels in a more wholesale manner - and, of course, by corollary the endangered species of Tory Remainers have had their hopes raised.

Both sides will wait with baited breath for what the Chancellor says next week about how to maximise post-Brexit trading opportunities for City firms.

I think we can safely assume that Philip Hammond is quite prepared to trade a bit of incremental oversight by the EU for augmented market access.

So at that point the Jacob-Rees-Moggs might kick off.

But for a few hours at least the PM has brought calm to the choppy waters of her own side. It won’t last.