Sajid Javid accused of 'flying blind' as he refuses to publish economic assessment of Brexit deal

Posted On: 
22nd October 2019

Sajid Javid has been accused of "flying blind" as he rejected calls to publish a full economic assessment of the Government's Brexit deal.

The Chancelloir said Boris Johnson's Brexit agreement was "self-evidently in our economic interest".
Credit: 
PA

The Chancellor sparked anger as he told MPs on the Treasury Committee that the deal thrashed out by Boris Johnson "cannot be measured solely through spreadsheets".

Interim committee chair Catherine McKinnell had demanded to know whether the Government has updated its analysis from 2018, when officials modelled a host of possible Brexit outcomes including backing former Prime Minister Theresa May's EU deal.

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But, in a letter to the committee, Mr Javid said the 2018 analysis had been "intentionally long-term in nature" and "did not seek to predict how the UK economy will actually perform in future".

And he said the potential free trade agreement modelled by the Treasury at the time - seen as the closest to Mr Johnson's current proposed deal - "does not correspond to the agreement we will be seeking".

The Chancellor wrote: "My starting point is that agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement is self-evidently in our economic interest. It would bring an end to the damaging uncertainty and delay of the past years, and allow businesses to get on with taking decisions, including around recruitment and investment."

While he promised to keep MPs "updated throughout those discussions", he mounted a defence of the decision not to publish a study.

"My last point is to say that trust in democracy and bringing an end to the division that has characterised this debate over the past three years, is something that cannot be measured solely through spreadsheets or impact assessments, important though they are," he added.

"Respecting the referendum and closing this chapter so we can focus on delivering growth and the public services people deserve, is the right thing to do for our country."

'DEARTH'

Responding to the move, Ms McKinnell said ministers seemed "content that MPs be expected to vote blindly on its new deal".

And the Treasury Committee chair warned: "The dearth of relevant economic analysis on which MPs can decide how to vote is deeply concerning.

"Whilst the Chancellor commits to provide analysis ‘at appropriate points’, it’s unclear whether the analysis will be published before any further meaningful votes or the publication of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

"In the meantime, the existing analysis and scenarios remain the most current Government tool for providing, in the Chancellor’s words, ‘an understanding of how changes to our relationship with the EU might affect the UK economy’.

"The Government must therefore urgently explain why the previous analysis of an FTA does not correspond to the FTA in the political declaration and provide clarity on what the impact is of the current proposals."

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell meanwhile blasted: "Flying blind on a massive decision on the future of the economy is no way for a government to make recommendations to parliament or make legislation. It’s preposterous behaviour by the chancellor and this government."

The row comes amid anger from some MPs after they were told they would have just three days to scrutinise the landmark legislation delivering Brexit.

Ministers are aiming to complete the Withdrawal Agreement Bill's passage through the Commons by Thursday, in what Labour said was an attempt to "force through a flawed Brexit deal".

But Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "We do have a deadline of 31 October, a deadline set in law, for dealing with our departure from the European Union, and we need to have the legislation in place by then or the alternative is that we leave without a deal."