United Kingdom

15 Mar 2017

UK doesn’t know the cost of a no deal with the EU, David says

Brexit secretary, David Davis, admitted that the UK government hasn’t carried out an assessment of what effect leaving the European Union without an exit deal would have on the British economy. Speaking in a parliamentary committee hearing, Davis said that the last available analysis dated back to the 2016 referendum campaign.

Davis seemed rather unprepared to answer the questions of the Commons Brexit committee. The secretary said that “there was an assessment before the referendum, but that assessment has not turned out to be robust.” Davis tried to defend himself by saying that “any assessment of the impact would have to take into account what the UK government might do to remedy these problems.”

The Brexit secretary was pressed by Hilary Benn, the Labour MP that chairs the Brexit committee, who said that exiting the EU without a deal, would not be as good as a frictionless trade deal. This opinion is totally the opposite to what the UK’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, supports, that a no deal option would be okay. Davis resisted the idea of having a transitional deal in many areas with the EU, preferring to move in totally new arrangements.

The secretary suggested that there is a growing desire in the EU for a good outcome in the negotiations that will take place. “From talking to finance ministers and secretaries, there is a growing determination to get a constructive outcome. The common interest will drive this in the long run and not any negotiating gambits we use”. When asked on the important matter of UK’s obligations to the EU budget, Davis answered that Britain will meet its obligations when it knows what they are.

Labour’s Pat McFadden, accused the government of “mortgaging the country’s future only to a soundbite”, when he commented on Theresa May’s plans of deals without an assessment. Davis answered that he didn’t need a paper with numbers to have an assessment and added that “I have an idea of how things would turn out”. Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP, asked him if he agrees with the chief Brexit negotiator, Michelle Barnier, who wants the negotiations to be over by Autumn 2018. Davis told Cherry that “if there is will, it can be done. We can wrap up the whole process in two years.”

Davis accused the SNP for refusing to cooperate with the UK government over Brexit, and signaled the government’s intention to reject the SNP’s plan for a carve-out that would keep Scotland in the single market. Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, issued a statement on behalf of the Labour party that said: “no deal would be the worst possible deal. The government must rule out this dangerous and counter-productive threat before article 50 is triggered”.