Davis accused of misleading parliament over Brexit assessments

Britain’s opposition Labour Party Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer

Brexit Secretary David Davis told a parliamentary committee Wednesday that the nation should be prepared for a profound shift in the way the economy operates on a scale similar to that of the 2008 financial crisis.

He also admitted no economic impact studies were carried out before the cabinet decision to leave the EU Customs Union, and no assessments have been made on the possible economic effect of a no-deal Brexit.

"Whether it's through incompetence or insincerity, David Davis has been misleading Parliament from the start", she said.

Mr Davis was quizzed by committee chairman Hilary Benn, who said: "Doesn't it strike you as rather odd 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?"

As pointed out by several observers, David Davis's appearance in front of the Brexit select committee to explain the whereabouts of the impact assessments this morning is, essentially, Monte Python's Cheese Shop Sketch without the music.

After the announcement of the Budget last month, voices across the sector said that Brexit was its biggest concern because of the uncertainty it caused.

During Davis's testimony before the Brexit committee, he revealed to MPs who have been seeking any impact assessments conducted by the UK Government on the potential economic consequences of Brexit that no such analysis existed, saying: "There's no sort of systematic impact assessment".

In February 2017, auditing firm KMPG published its own analysis of the likely impact and exposure of all the UK's main industries to labor from the European Union.

Instead the government handed over instead 850 pages of heavily-edited "sectoral analyses" setting out detail about the current position of different parts of the economy.

He said those assessments would look at the impact of different outcomes on sectors including financial services, manufacturing and agriculture.

But he said on Wednesday that they had never been "impact assessments" in the technical sense of the phrase: "Just because you use the word impact doesn't make it an impact assessment".

Davis continued: "Therefore the usefulness of such a detailed impact assessment is near zero".

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 European Union had been edited.

Labour MP Seema Malhotra called Davis's admission "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". It was either incredibly incompetent or incredibly dishonest.

Nevertheless, pro-EU Labour MP Chuka Umunna said he has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask if the government has misled parliament.

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