David Davis admits there are no impact assessments on the effect of Brexit on the UK economy

Brexit secretary David Davis
Brexit secretary David Davis

David Davis has admitted that no impact assessments have been done on the effect of Brexit on the UK economy.

The Brexit Secretary has been accused of misleading Parliament over the non-existence of formal documents looking into the likely impact of EU withdrawal on different sectors of the UK economy.

In October Mr Davis said that reports had been conducted ‘in excruciating detail’.

Today he told the Committee for Exiting the European Union that no impact assessments had been conducted by the Government on the likely results of Brexit for individual sectors, such as automotive, aerospace or financial services.

In an exchange during which Mr Davis was said to look “frazzled”, he told the committee: “You don’t need to do a formal impact assessment to understand that if there is a regulatory hurdle between your producers and a market, there will be 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 with the financial crisis – all the models were wrong. The Queen famously asked why did we not know.”

Mr Davis was quizzed by committee chairman Hilary Benn, who said: “Doesn’t it strike you as rather strange that the Government undertakes impact assessments of all sorts of things all the time, but on the most fundamental change that we are facing as a country, you’ve just told us that the Government hasn’t undertaken any impact assessments at all on the implications for various parts of the economy?

“Are you actually telling us that the Government hadn’t at that point – and still hasn’t – undertaken the assessment?”

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Mr Davis was appearing before the committee to defend his failure to deliver the 58 impact assessments demanded by a parliamentary motion last month, handing over instead 850 pages of heavily-edited “sectoral analyses” setting out detail about the current position of different parts of the economy.

He 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.

And in October, he told the Brexit committee that Prime Minister Theresa May had read “summary outcomes” of impact assessments, which he said went into “excruciating detail”.

The government was forced into releasing information from Brexit impact studies – which show the potential effect of leaving the EU on various sectors – after Labour won a vote effectively forcing its hand.

Ministers had argued that releasing the studies would undermine its negotiating position but Labour used parliamentary procedure to force the release of the documents.

<em>Frazzled – the Brexit Secretary was described as looking ‘frazzled’ during his appearance before the Brexit Select Committee (Pictures: PA)</em>
Frazzled – the Brexit Secretary was described as looking ‘frazzled’ during his appearance before the Brexit Select Committee (Pictures: PA)

Mr Davis previously said that the documents were “not some sort of grand plan” but included data about the regulations and markets of individual sectors which would inform negotiations.

The Brexit Secretary also sparked concern after reportedly revealing that Theresa May and her Cabinet had only read summaries of the reports rather than the full assessments.

Mr Davis went on to reportedly tell the committee that they have been given sectoral analyses, which are different from impact assessments and look at different industries’ make-up, size and involvement in the European market.

Mr Davis was last week accused by some MPs of contempt of Parliament, after it emerged that the information handed over to the committee by his Department for Exiting the EU had been edited.

But he told the committee he had tried to provide “the closest we could” to what the House of Commons had demanded, subject to his responsibility not to release information which was commercially sensitive or could undermine the UK’s negotiating position.

Mr Davis’s admission that no sectoral impact assessments have been made provoked outrage among opposition MPs.

A Labour member of the Brexit committee, Seema Malhotra, described the failure to make assessments as “a dereliction of duty”.

And Liberal Democrat committee member Wera Hobhouse 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. Whether it’s through incompetence or insincerity, David Davis has been misleading Parliament from the start.”

Labour trade spokesman Bill Esterson asked: “Did he know that the impact assessments didn’t exist when he said they did? It was either incredibly incompetent or incredibly dishonest. Either way, how is Davis still in his job?”