Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

David Davis admits UK Government has not done Brexit impact assessments for different economic sectors

The Cabinet minister also admitted there had been no impact assessment of leaving the EU customs union before the decision was taken

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 06 December 2017 10:55 GMT
The UK has not conducted a Brexit impact assessment on any sector, says David Davis

David Davis has admitted the UK Government has done no impact assessments for the implications of Brexit on sectors of the British economy.

Despite having previously indicated that work had been undertaken, Mr Davis accepted in public that there is “no such systematic impact assessment”.

The Brexit Secretary also said no formal impact assessment had been undertaken into the effect of leaving the EU customs union before the Cabinet took the decision to withdraw.

The minister made the admissions during a grilling by the Brexit Select Committee which had demanded the assessments were released by the Government after Mr Davis and other members of the Government had signalled they existed.

Labour went on to force a vote in the House of Commons on the issue, with the outcome requiring the Government to release them, with officials later releasing 850 pages of analysis.

But Committee chairman Hilary Benn challenged Mr Davis at the hearing on Wednesday as to whether the documents received constituted impact assessments, or whether the assessments had been undertaken.

Mr Davis said: “There’s nothing ... there’s no such systematic impact assessments that I’m aware of.”

Pressing the issue, Mr Benn responded: “So the answer to the 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.”

After Mr Davis signalled his agreement, Mr Benn went on: “So, there isn’t one on the automotive sector?”

The Brexit Secretary said: “Not that I’m aware of”.

Asked whether there is an assessment on aerospace or financial services, he added: “The answer is going to be ‘no’ for all of them.”

He said the work undertaken by his Government were not formal “impact assessments”, but instead an analysis looking at the make-up of UK industries, looking at their size in terms of revenue capital and employment and their exposure to the European market, but were not forecasts of what would happen to them after Brexit.

Mr Davis explained: “When these sectoral analyses were initiated they were done to understand the effect of various options – what the outcome would be.

Brexit: No deal in Brussels after Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker meeting to break deadlock

“You don’t need to do a ... formal impact assessment to understand that if there is a regulatory hurdle between our producers and a market that it will have an impact, it will have an effect. The assessment of that effect ... is not as straightforward as people imagine.

“I’m not a fan of economic models because they have all proven wrong. When you have a paradigm change, as happened in 2008 when you had the financial crisis, all the models were wrong.”

Mr Davis said that the Government would “at some stage do the best we can to quantify the effect” of different negotiated outcomes.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who sits on the Brexit Select Committee, said: “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.”

As the session drew to a close, Mr Davis was asked if an assessment had been undertaken into the impacts of leaving the EU’s customs union before that decision was taken and announced by Theresa May, he said it had not.

Hilary Benn quizzed Mr Davis during a committee hearing (Getty)

The Brexit Secretary 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 television 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.”

In October, he told Mr Benn’s committee that Ms May had read “summary outcomes” of impact assessments, which he said went into “excruciating detail”.

As a result he was compelled to release some 850 pages of analysis that his Brexit Department has carried out, following a vote in Parliament on 1 November.

The motion, put forward as a “humble address” to the monarch, passed without opposition from the Government and stated that impact studies should be handed over while making no provision for any items to be withheld.

Officials at Mr Davis’s department explained at the time that they had never had separate impact assessments as such, but instead had a broad body of information consisting of some analysis that the UK Government had done on Brexit and issues related to various sectors, and also confirmed some documents would be held back.

With the prospect of Mr Davis being declared in “contempt of Parliament”, carrying a potential suspension from the Commons with it if he failed to comply with the vote, the minister was called back to the committee on Wednesday to explain why no impact assessments have been handed over.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in