David Davis facing calls to resign after admitting Brexit impact assessments ‘don’t exist’
Davis also conceded there had been no economic impact report undertaken before the cabinet decision to leave the customs union, and no assessment had been made of the possible economic effect of a no-deal Brexit.
The economic effects of Brexit could match the financial crisis, according to Davis. He said it was impossible to predict because it will be a “paradigm shift” in the same way as the crash of 2008.
The Brexit secretary made the admissions during a grilling by the Commons Brexit Committee, which had demanded the assessments were released by the government after Davis and other members of the government signaled they existed. Labour forced a vote in the Commons, with the outcome requiring the government to release them. Officials later released 850 pages of analysis.
Committee Chairman Hilary Benn challenged Davis at the hearing on Wednesday as to whether the documents received constituted impact assessments, or whether any had even been undertaken. Davis replied: “There’s nothing … there’s no such systematic impact assessments that I’m aware of.”
Pressing the issue, Benn said: “So the answer to my question is ‘no’? So the government hasn’t undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors of the British economy?”
Benn then listed various parts of the economy including automotive, aerospace and financial sectors. “I think the answer’s going to be no to all of them,” Davis responded.
Davis said the work undertaken by his department was not “impact assessments,” but analysis looking at the makeup of UK industries, their size in terms of revenue capital and employment, and their exposure to the European market. They were not forecasts of what would happen to them after Brexit, Davis said, adding that the reports “weren’t that good.”
When Benn suggested this was “strange,” the minister said formal assessments were not needed to know that “regulatory hurdles” would have an impact. “I am not a fan of economic models because they have all proven wrong,” Davis added.
The minister told MPs as early as last December that his department was “in the midst of carrying out about 57 sets of analyses” on different parts of the economy. In a TV interview in June he said: “In my job I don’t think out loud and I don’t make guesses. Those two things. I try and make decisions. You make those based on the data. That data is being gathered. We’ve got 50, nearly 60, sectoral analyses already done.”
Here's David Davis's Statement to the House a month ago. And here's his evidence to the Brexit Select Committee this morning. pic.twitter.com/O81ahJNf7O— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) December 6, 2017
David Davis, 25 June: "We've already got 50, nearly 60 sector analyses already done" https://t.co/TUDLarro7M— Open Britain (@Open_Britain) December 6, 2017
In October, he told Benn’s committee that Prime Minister Theresa May had read “summary outcomes” of impact assessments, which he said went into “excruciating detail.”
The comments come after a tumultuous series of days in the Brexit negotiations, with the progress in talks between the UK and EU scuppered by disagreements over how to deal with the border in Northern Ireland.
Davis lied to parliament, MPs say
MPs have slammed Davis on Twitter as “incompetent”, “insincere”, “conceited”, “vain” and “wholly unfit for office” after it was revealed on Wednesday there are no Brexit impact assessments.
“At what point is David Davis going to be help to account for such blatant lying? He must surely now resign. He simply cannot be allowed to go around lying to parliament and the British public in this way. Mendacious, conceited, vain, duplicitous, wholly unfit for office,” Labour MP David Lammy said. He added that Davis should be put in the Tower of London for contempt of Parliament.
Watch this and make your mind up about whether this lying, duplicitous, incompetent, arrogant, making it up as he goes along absolute shower is fit for office in leading us through Brexit. Resign pic.twitter.com/n7YcJtnLC6— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) December 6, 2017
At what point is @DavidDavisMP going to be held to account for such blatant lying? He must surely now resign. He simply can not be allowed to go around lying to Parliament and the British public in this way. Mendacious, conceited, vain, duplicitous, wholly unfit for office. https://t.co/2QnP7oGTc9— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) December 6, 2017
That feeling when you say you've done your Brexit economic impact assessments in excruciating detail but you get caught out lying to Parliament and the public pic.twitter.com/AsOeJLvyKe— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) December 6, 2017
Labour’s Wes Streeting wrote: “This is totally disgraceful. Biggest issue facing our country since the Second World War and this is the state of government preparedness.”
Co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas said the situation was “beyond farcical”. “Davis is either grossly incompetent, or someone who struggles with the truth and treats MPs with contempt. Either way, he should be out of his job,” she tweeted.
Liberal Democrats spokesperson for Brexit Tom Brake said Davis was responsible for a “complete dereliction of duty.” He added: “This is appalling. The UK is about to take the single biggest economic decision ever and the UK Gov have not analysed its impact.”
David Davis has now confirmed that UK Gov has done NO analysis of the impact of #Brexit on a sector by sector basis. This is appalling. The UK is about to take the single biggest economic decision ever and the UK Gov have not analysed its impact. A complete dereliction of duty.— Tom Brake (@thomasbrake) December 6, 2017
Wera Hobhouse, a Lib Dem member of the committee, said after today's hearing: “It is unbelievable that these long-trumpeted impact assessments don't even exist, meaning the Government has no idea what their Brexit plans will do to the country. Ministers must now urgently undertake these impact assessments and ensure people are given the facts. Whether it's through incompetence or insincerity, David Davis has been misleading Parliament from the start.”