Why is the government refusing to publish its “impact assessments” on what Brexit might mean for the UK economy?
David Davis insists that the papers will not be published because the government believes they would undermine the negotiations and the national interest. But they could help companies with forward planning for Brexit…….
Some of the broad facts about these impact studies are already known. We know that they are detailed documents that analyse what a range of outcomes in the Brexit negotiations would mean for some 57 sectors of the UK economy. We also know that the studies serve as a kind of internal guide to Whitehall officials on how to negotiate with Brussels on a future trade relationship.
In evidence to the Brexit select committee this week, Mr Davis gave a little more insight into the documents. He confirmed that the government would soon publish the full list of the 57 sectors being analysed. He also revealed that the prime minister knows the summary outcomes of the surveys. Publication of the list will help us at Amelia Bishop Brexit Consulting to structure our Brexit Risk Impact Models sector by sector.
Refusal by ministers to publish these documents leaves parliament and the public in the dark over the economic consequences of Brexit. The UK government has recently published a number of position papers setting out what it would like a future trading relationship to look like, but we have to go back to the Treasury paper from April 2016, published before the referendum, to read the last official assessment by Whitehall of the potential economic consequences of Brexit (see attached PDF).
Mr Davis, like other ministers, dismisses the 2016 Treasury paper saying its forecasts have proven to be completely wrong. But that argument was before we invoked Article 50 (the period of ‘Phony War’, so to speak), it would carry more weight if this government lifted the veil on its own new assessment on what alternative Brexit outcomes might mean for business and the economy. Clamour for the impact assessments to be published will not die down quickly, as business pushes for more clarity about government Brexit strategy.
Reading between the lines of David Davis’s evidence to the Parliamentary Brexit Select Committee I get the feeling that the government is not going to progress negotiations with the EU but rather sit back and wait to see if the EU changes its mind and decides to negotiate future trade and transition before discussing exit terms. If I’m right this is a really risky strategy and we have to hope it works because if it doesn’t by the next EU leaders summit in December then the outlook for Brexit really will be very precarious.