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Minister accused of 'incompetence'

Davis condemned over lack of Brexit impact tests

David Davis at Brexit committee

David Davis: not a fan of economic models


Brexit Secretary David Davis has been widely condemned following his admission to MPs that the government has not conducted any assessments of the impact of EU withdrawal on the UK economy.

Asked Labour MP Hilary Benn, chairman of the Brexit committee, if the government had undertaken any such assessments on different sectors of the economy, Mr Davis replied that the answer was “no to all of them.”

He said the usefulness of such assessments would be “near zero” because of the scale of change likely to be caused by Brexit.

He said the government had produced a “sectoral analysis” of different industries but not a “forecast” of what would happen when the UK leaves the EU.

“I am not a fan of economic models because they have all proven wrong,” he said.

The GMB union accused him of “unforgivable recklessness” and “playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods, communities and the economy”.

The SNP warned that the Brexit Secretary is “either guilty of equivocation or incompetence– or both”.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “It’s remarkable that Ministers have decided that they haven’t done Brexit impact assessments after all.

“That’s not what they’ve been telling us for the last few months, so either they’ve been leading us up the garden path or they’re playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods, communities and the economy. It’s unforgivable recklessness.

“It’s time that Ministers put people’s jobs first and urgently conduct and publish the impact assessments so people can plan for the future. Without them, we’re flying blind.”

Joanna Cherry, an SNP member of the Brexit Select Committee, warned that the evidence given by Mr Davis raises serious concerns over the parliamentary conduct of the UK government.

She said the evidence given to MPs contradicts previous statements given throughout the year, including a statement by Mr Davis to the Commons in February when he said: “We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy, covering more than 50 sectors —I think it was 58 at the last count—to shape our negotiating position.”

He also wrote to the to the chairman of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee in House of Lords revealing the list of sectors for which his department had carried out Brexit impact assessments.

The Scottish Secretary David Mundell told the Scottish Affairs Committee that a Scotland Brexit impact study exists.

Ms Cherry said: “The revelation from the Brexit Secretary that the UK government has not conducted a single economic impact assessment on the impact of Brexit on the British economy is simply staggering and, if accurate, constitutes a serious dereliction of duty.

“Just last month, the UK government had to be dragged kicking and screaming before parliament to disclose their impact assessments. The UK government did not oppose the motion and the House unanimously passed the motion which the Speaker ruled to be binding. Now we are being told by the Brexit Secretary himself that these impact assessments do not exist.

“The Brexit Secretary is either guilty of equivocation or irresponsibility and incompetence.

“Theresa May is due to attend a crucial EU Council summit next week yet, according to today’s evidence, she will be attending without having a single shred of government evidence in front of her as to what the impact of leaving the EU will have on the UK’s economy. Day by day, this government is proving that it is simply not fit to lead this country.”

Jonathan Portes, senior fellow The UK in Changing Europe and professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College London, said: “The fact that the government is unwilling and/or unable to produce any form of comprehensive economic impact assessment highlights a huge gap. 

“It is long past time for Parliament to take the lead in ensuring that such analyses are produced in a way that is rigorous, independent and objective.”

Chancellor reveals Spring Statement date

Chancellor Philip Hammond told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that the statement will not be a “major fiscal event”.

Instead it will discuss longer-term issues and set out the latest official economic forecasts.

The chancellor said ministers have had general discussions about the Brexit negotiations but not specifically talked about what the final outcome should be.

That will happen when the UK and EU move on to the second stage of Brexit negotiations.

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