The Brexit Secretary David Davis has shocked MPs by admitting that the Government has done no economic assessment of what would happen to the UK if we leave the EU without achieving a ‘deal’.
Giving evidence to MPs, Mr Davis denied that it is not possible to calculate the impact of the Brexit talks failing saying, “I may be able to do so in about a year’s time”.
Mr Davis dismissed the Treasury’s pre-referendum forecasts of an economic crash if Britain left the EU with no new trade agreement.
The CBI has warned the government about its approach to Brexit.
But, when he was asked by the chair of the Brexit select committee if a new assessment had been carried out, Mr Davis replied: “Under my time, no”.
Mr Davis, in the light of growing speculation that the Brexit talks may fail, has already asked colleagues to prepare for that possibility.
Labour MP Pat McFadden wasn’t impressed, and alleged: “Without an assessment, you have mortgaged the country’s economic future to a soundbite”.
But Mr Davis hinted that he would not be carrying out any further assessment of the Brexit option, saying: “You don’t need a piece of paper with numbers on it to have an economic assessment”.
He seemed to downgrade the government’s promise that the UK will enjoy the “same economic benefits outside the EU,” telling the MPs that he was expressing an ambition.
On the problems of leaving the EU with no deal, he said: “It’s not as frightening as some people think – but it’s not as simple as some people think”.
Mr Davis also said it was “probably right” that Britons on holiday in the EU would lose their EHIC cards, which provide free or heavily subsidised health care, but added: “I have not looked at that one”.
Another matter was that of the transfer of personal data, which is a crucial issue for the booming tech industry. He conceded that he did not know what the implications were.
Asked about the costs of leaving without a deal, Davis admitted that it would lead to new tariffs and other barriers to trade.
He also told the committee that Britain might also lose its financial passports, the EU Open Skies agreement, and may be forced to impose new border checks between Northern and Southern Ireland.
He confirmed that leaving the Customs Union would likely cause long delays at customs, which would be a hindrance to UK trade.
He insisted that Britain’s economic path would soon become clearer after the negotiations get underway, saying: “When we finish building the Lego blocks, we’ll build the house”.
Mr Davis also denied that the triggering of Article 50 had been “delayed” after Downing Street said it would now take place in the last week of March (it was largely expected to take place last week).
Does it not all sound rather concerning?
Brexit – whether you like it or not – is going to happen. This is the biggest change the country has gone through in over 40 years, and a successful Brexit is crucial if we are to maintain a healthy economy.
It is more or less understandable that – as negotiations have not yet begun with our European partners – we cannot have a clear idea of what kind of deal we may eventually reach, but surely we should know what we are going to do if we DON’T come up with a deal?