Boris Johnson government will not carry out any economic impact assessment of his Brexit deal, officials admit

Protest that 'public is being kept in the dark' over expected economic hit of up to £130bn

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 19 November 2019 10:12
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No analysis of the likely economic damage from Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will be carried out, the government has admitted.

Ministers have dropped plans to publish a Treasury assessment, amid estimates of a hit to the UK economy of anything between £70bn and £130bn, leaving people thousands of pounds worse off.

The stance was attacked as “a dereliction of duty” by Julie Ward, a Labour MEP, who uncovered it after submitting a freedom of information request.

“The government doesn't even know, or don't even seem to care, what their new Brexit deal will mean for the economy, business and families across the country,” she said.

Sajid Javid, the chancellor, was strongly criticised for refusing to publish an assessment before MPs voted on the prime minister’s divorce deal last month.

MPs suggested it would echo Treasury data from last year, which said the limited free trade deal Mr Johnson now plans with the EU will strip 6.7 per cent from GDP over 15 years – meaning £130bn of lost growth.

Now the FOI response has stated: “There is no ‘economic impact assessment’ based upon the withdrawal agreement, nor is there a date for an ‘economic impact assessment’ to take place.”

The Brexit department said it had published an “impact assessment” on “risks, costs and benefits to businesses”, but acknowledged: “It is not an economic assessment”.

Yet, when the row raged last month, both No 10 and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, suggested a full assessment would be released before the UK is due to leave the EU, on 31 January.

Ms Ward added: “This ensures the public will not know what it means for them in the upcoming general election. This impact assessment must be done immediately – the public is being kept in the dark.”

Economists believe Mr Johnson’s deal will be worse for the economy than Theresa May’s, because only Northern Ireland will remain in the EU’s customs union.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research put the likely loss to GDP by 2030 at about £70bn, blaming lost trade and lower migration.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, came under fire after describing it as a “cracking deal” for Northern Ireland because it will keep “frictionless access to the single market” – which the rest of the UK will lose.

In a notorious comment two weeks ago, Mr Javid dismissed fears over the deal agreed with the EU, saying “It’s self-evident what we have achieved with this deal is the right thing for the economy.”

The controversy comes amid criticism of the chancellor for ducking scrutiny of his spending plans by pulling out of a TV debate, while an update on the economy by the Treasury watchdog was axed.

The government has also been accused of suppressing an inconvenient report into alleged Russian interference in UK elections, including the Brexit referendum.

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