Nick Clegg: The UK will be the first country to introduce trade barriers in Europe since WWII
That Nick Clegg, former British deputy prime minister, is a fervent opponent of Brexit is no secret.
Speaking at the Global ABS conference in Barcelona on Wednesday, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats warned of the impact that the United Kingdom's divorce from the European Union (EU) - and the protectionist policies that it represented - would have.
When it leaves the EU in March 2019, Britain will become the first European nation to "set obstacles, tariffs and taxes on trade inside Europe since the Second World War", said Clegg.
"The final agreement on Brexit must be thoroughly examined in terms of how much protectionism it is going to introduce into UK trade with its current partners," he stressed.
Clegg also heaped criticism on the work done thus far by Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit cabinet, just under a week before the Commons was set to debate the amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill proposed by the House of Lords.
Commenting on the implications for the UK's trade relationship with Europe, Clegg said: "trying to emulate the deal that exists with Canada or any other alternative, will mean a huge reduction in international trade compared to the current framework that does not set limits."
He also criticised the political paralysis that had gripped Downing Street, saying that "Brexit is draining all the resources of the British Government."
Clegg also expressed his displeasure at the fact that the paralysis since the June 2016 vote had extended to all of British society. "We need more time. The United Kingdom would need to take a break to think about what it is doing," he insisted.
Nonetheless, he did not think a second referendum was likely in the near term.
"The United Kingdom is doing something unprecedented. We make a decision about our future against those who will inhabit that future even though 70% of young people decided to stay. There is no other country in the world that tells its young people that they can not have the future they want," he said.
CHALLENGES FOR EUROPE AND THE EUROZONE
Bringing together leaders from the global banking industry, the focus of the event being held between 5 and 7 June in the Catalan capital was on the securitisation of assets.
With a decade's experience working on the European Commission and another five at the European Parliament, also raised the alarm about the multiple risks facing the EU, including President Trump's misguided 'America First' policy, the resurgence of nationalism on the Old Continent and the Kremlin's attempts at destabilisation by meddling in European elections.
But what worried Clegg the most was that "the European project is incomplete".
He called on European leaders, especially French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to launch the much-needed fiscal union at the end of June EU leaders' summit.
"The EU can survive without the United Kingdom or the immigrant crisis, but it will probably disintegrate if there is another crisis in the euro without any prior improvement in the mechanisms needed to deal with it."