David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, was forced to admit to MPs that any assessment of the impact Brexit will have on the UK don’t exist.
The moment came on Wednesday, when during the Brexit committee hearing Hilary Benn asked the minister whether impact assessments had been made as to Brexit’s effect on the British economy. Mr Davis rambled gamely for 30 seconds until Mr Benn made him state it plainly, “So the answer is no?” Which Davis confirmed.
Mr Benn proceeded to ask whether there were individual assessments on the automobile, aerospace, or financial sectors. To his credit Mr Davis, behind nervous laughter, stated, “I think the answer’s going to be no to all of them”.
In the face of probing about how strange it is that the British government had not conducted a formal impact assessment of a fundamental change to our nation’s status, Davis evaded by saying a formal assessment wasn’t necessary to know that “regulatory hurdles” would have an impact.
Davis continued that like a financial crash, the “paradigm change” of Brexit could not be predicted. The incredibly troubling comparison of Brexit to economic catastrophe is a gaffe which seems to have been eluded ridicule.
Of course, the general mockery of our Brexit minister seemingly having no idea what’s going on has been swift. The Mirror reminded us of the many times Davis promised impact assessments were underway, calling the moment on Wednesday’s hearing a ‘dog ate my homework’ situation. The Guardian has accused him of bluffing.
Angela Eagle has been consistent in dubbing it both a “dereliction of duty” and her insistence that Mr Davis must resign.
He said they did exist – what on earth have Govt been doing all this time????? Total dereliction of duty https://t.co/lBD2Mog5Ee
— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) December 6, 2017
During PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn came for blood after months of promises of “sectoral analyses” in “excruciating detail”, asking the PM straight out whether they had ever existed. This was the parliamentary equivalent of being asked ‘Were you lying then or are you lying now?’ Mr Davis even faces the prospect of being declared in “contempt of Parliament” for his months of misdirection.
The week in Brexit news has been horrendous for the government with this revelation and Irish border concerns stymying European negotiations. It used to be the mantra that ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’, but the British people are left to wonder if David Davis and the government in fact understand what a deal is.
If they need some help figuring out how to conduct an impact assessment, the government might want to consult the very real impact studies of their European counterparts.