The Brexit 'impact assessments' do reveal one thing – that David Davis has done nothing to prepare for Brexit

Which are you more shocked by: that fishing is 'concentrated in coastal towns' or that David Davis has done nothing to prepare for Brexit?

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Thursday 21 December 2017 18:36 GMT
The UK has not conducted a Brexit impact assessment on any sector, says David Davis

They were meant to be David Davis’s Manhattan Project. The documents, commissioned by him, produced by the Brexit department that would ultimately become death, destroyer of Brexit.

For long weeks, when the Brexit department refused to make the documents public, it was widely assumed that in all their “excruciating detail”, they combined to produce a devastating, sector by sector critique of the damage Brexit would do. It was a secret the public could not know.

It took a late night Commons vote, forced through by the Labour Party via the revival of an obscure, near-medieval parliamentary device, to compel the Government to reveal the shocking truth.

Even then, they took steps to maintain their dark secrets. Only Members of Parliament could see them. They had to pass through a metal detector to do so. They were allowed no phone, no photographic or other recording equipment. Just one pen, one notebook with which to do their level best to broadcast this dire warning to the nation.

And then, on Thursday morning, the last working day before Christmas, when huge troves of documents are traditionally dumped in to the public domain, there they were. The secret was out.

“Electricity is a fundamental part of modern society,” read the one on, well electricity. “Residential and industrial users rely on its use to ensure basic and vital needs such as lighting, heating or refrigeration are met on a daily basis.”

On construction, we learn: “The UK construction products industry is a broad and complex manufacturing industry covering items such as bricks, cement, sand and concrete and can also be considered to include products such as paints, ceramic fittings, cast steel etc.”

How about fishing? “As an island nation, the UK has been dependent on the sea for its trade and defence throughout history, and strong traditions of seafaring can be traced back hundreds of years.”

And where, do you think, might this fishing, take place? Well, “There is a concentration of activity in coastal towns.”

We also learned that, as far as the aerospace sector is concerned, the manufacture of commercial aircraft is dominated by two companies, one called Boeing, the other Airbus.

To state again, these documents were kept under lock and key. They were deemed too sensitive for your MP to go near whilst in possession of a mobile phone.

Parliament ran late into the night to secure the publication of these documents. The Speaker warned the government that if they were not produced then ordinary procedure would find them in contempt of parliament.

It is crucial at this point to make an important semantic distinction. Since claiming his department had produced sector by sector analysis in “excruciating detail” on how they might be impacted by Brexit, he has since made clear that, assessing the impact of something does not make it an impact assessment. These documents are in fact “sectoral analyses.”

An impact assessment, he has now said several times, has a strict definition, as set out by something called the “Better Regulation Task Force,” and his documents are merely “sectoral analyses.”

Now that the UK is leaving the European Union, it has very important that the Brexit department has on hand such vital information as the coastal nature of the fishing industry, and the general importance to modern life as electricity.

The usefulness of any kind of assessment of how these industries might be impacted by the most important decision taken by the country in several generations, we already know David Davis considers to be “near zero because they always turn out to be wrong.”

Loathe though one should always be, to couch Brexit in militaristic terms, it is worth not forgetting, as we are about to engage the enemy in the most crucial battle of all, namely the talks on trade, that Field Marshal Davis’s preparations thus far appear to involve having been bounced into a reluctant Wikipedia inspired stock take of his side’s equipment.

Still, there may be upsides. The most optimistic actual assessments of the likely Brexit outcome intimate that it might - might - just be possible for the UK to be allowed to copy and paste the EU’s trade agreements with the likes of South Korea and Japan after it leaves, and ceases to have any influence of them.

That the department already has such a fine sense of where to find the Ctrl C and Ctrl V buttons may leave it surprisingly well prepared for the future. Albeit by accident.

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