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The many times David Davis talked about Brexit analysis he says doesn’t exist

Not so much “excruciating detail” as “dog ate my homework”.

On Wednesday morning, Brexit Secretary David Davis told the select committee on exiting the European Union that the government had not produced “impact asessments” on how Brexit will affect different parts of the UK economy. He also admitted that the predictive model his department is using to predict what will happen is not a “formal quantitative one".  

Which is strange, given the number of times he, his fellow ministers and government spokespeople have talked about the in-depth analysis being carried out, and the effort they went to to avoid publishing that information earlier this year because it might supposedly undermine negotiations with the EU.

Davis’s claim appears to revolve around what he claims is the difference between an analysis of the impact of Brexit and the supposedly technical term “impact assessment", which is also strange given it's not something he thought to clarify at any point over the least 12 months. According to Davis those  “individual sectoral analysis will not necessary be informative", and in any case he, is “not a fan" of impact assessments in any case. Which is all very reassuring.

Anyway, below are the many, many times Davis and his colleagues have referenced detailed, wide-ranging and sensitive work on what will happen after Brexit, that he now says doesn't really exist.

14 December 2016

Davis to Brexit Committee:

“It won’t be next month. The policy work is still underway; there are quite a few decisions still to be made. We've carried out or are in the midst of carrying out about 57, I think, sectoral analyses, each of which has implications for individual parts of 85 per cent of the economy, and some of those are still to be concluded.

"We have work still to be done on justice and home affairs, so there is a fair number of things still to do. So it will be as soon as we're ready."

25 June 2017 (Andrew Marr Show)

David Davis: “We've already got 50, nearly 60 sector analyses already done.”

14 August 2017

David Jones (department minister) in a letter: the Department for Exiting the European Union has “conducted analysis of over 50 sector of the economy.”

8 September 2017

Steve Baker (Brexit minister): “The Department for Exiting the EU has indeed conducted analysis of over 50 sectors of the economy, covering financial services, energy, retail, infrastructure and transport, to name but a few.”

29 September 2017

Brexit Department (in response to freedom of information request from Labour MP Seema Malhotra): the studies were completed; "we intend to publish the information."

22 October 2017

Dr Liam Fox (on Peston on Sunday): “Why would we publish data in a negotiation that might actually diminish our negotiating hand?”

26 October 2017

David Davis responding to a question from Seema Malhotra on whether Theresa May had seen the “impact assessments”: “She’ll know the summary outcomes of them...She won’t necessarily have read every single one, they are in excruciating detail.”

31 October 2017

Government spokesman: “This list details the 58 sectors that are used in the analysis and covers the breadth of the UK economy... this analysis is closely tied to our negotiating position and it would undoubtedly be detrimental to our interests in the negotiation to publish it.”

1 November 2017

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom on when the studies would be released: “It is absolutely accepted that the motion passed by the House yesterday is binding and that the information will be forthcoming.”

Davis: ministers would be “as open as we can".

Baker: “There has been no suggestion of redaction."

7 November 2017

David Davis in written statement to Parliament: "The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents."

Photo: Getty
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South Africa’s new dawn: How Jacob Zuma’s misrule was ended

“We are going to look back at the past ten years and think of it as a lost decade.”

On the afternoon of 13 February, as South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma was recalled by his party, the African National Congress (ANC), a popular Johannesburg radio station began receiving calls about a peculiar incident.

A truck had lost its load along the M2 highway and people were scurrying to pick up what they believed to be tiny nuggets of unprocessed gold. The highway became congested as motorists pulled over to join the search. Even for a city that rose from the dust of a gold rush, this was a bizarre scene.

The first radio caller was giddy with excitement, as was the second. The third did what South Africans do best: he made light of an otherwise confusing and anxious day in the young nation’s history. “It’s manna from heaven,” the caller said. “Zuma’s just been recalled and already the roads are paved in gold.” Nine years into the president’s disastrous rule, South Africans had not lost their sense of humour – and were awaiting a new dawn. The police cleared the scene along the M2, no one proclaimed a worthy find and the nation returned to waiting for Zuma’s next move.

Technically, the president did not have to resign as head of state, despite the opposition of the ANC, the proud liberation movement turned ruling party that Zuma led for a decade until December 2017. Realistically, he had no options left.

With an overwhelming majority in parliament, the ANC was ready to table a motion of no confidence the next day. Defiant to the end, these final hours on the eve of Valentine’s Day were Zuma’s last stand.

They called him the “unstoppable tsunami” and with good reason. Zuma damaged South Africa and the ANC in ways only history will fully capture. He wrecked a country struggling to rebuild itself under the shadow of apartheid. Under his rule, the economy stagnated, unemployment rose, poverty grew, violent crime spiked and corruption became endemic.

“South Africa was headed in the wrong direction,” says Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition, which governs in cities including Johannesburg and Cape Town. “We are going to look back at the past ten years and think of it as a lost decade,” the political analyst Stephen Grootes concludes.

Zuma lurched from one scandal to the next. He was acquitted of rape, avoided almost 800 corruption charges for over a decade and nearly crashed the economy by recklessly firing a respected finance minister. Taxpayers were misled over exorbitant upgrades to his private mansion (a swimming pool was defended as a fire-fighting feature) and his friendship with the controversial Gupta family placed him at the heart of what became known as “state capture”: the looting of state coffers through the corruption of senior government officials.

“State and independent institutions were repurposed for the enrichment and protection of Jacob Zuma,” says political commentator Justice Malala. “He went through the guts of the framework, pulled out the institutions he needed and systematically broke them down or took away their independence.”

The institutions ranged from the tax revenue service to the public broadcaster, from the police to the prosecuting authority, and from the intelligence services to crucial industries such as mining.

Although constitutionally barred from governing beyond 2019, Zuma was widely believed to have engineered a plan to hold on to power (and avoid prosecution) through his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was campaigning to take over from him. By December, when the ANC met to pick its next leader, who would go on to become the country’s president in 2019, a mood of despair and hopelessness had set in.

The race was close. In the end, 179 votes out of nearly 5,000 cast separated Dlamini-Zuma from her challenger, Cyril Ramaphosa, a former union leader and businessman who had campaigned on an anti-corruption and pro-growth platform.

Ramaphosa’s victory in mid-December was a turning point. It removed the prospect of Zuma’s continued rule, began an instant shift in political power and sparked a moment of renewed hope. Ramaphosa had his own controversies, but was viewed as largely incorruptible. He had risen through the trade unions, served the ANC and built his wealth in the private sector. 

Following Ramaphosa’s election, the extent of state capture emerged through superb investigative journalism.

Politically driven prosecutions fell away, a hugely unpopular nuclear energy deal with Russia was frozen and, as Zuma was being recalled, police cars arrived outside the home of the Gupta family.

And yet, the president refused to leave the Union Buildings quietly, prompting comparisons with Margaret Thatcher. “He was the worst possible combination of ignorance, selfishness and incompetence that could have been inflicted upon the long-suffering people of South Africa,” read an editorial in the Daily Maverick on 13 February. “Now, stripped to the bare essence of being Zuma, the final image emerges, one of the selfish man who cared only for himself.”

Journalist Richard Poplak concluded: “What is born in chaos dies in chaos.”

 Zuma’s departure allows for the rebuilding to begin. The role played by the media, civil society – which found its voice during the Zuma years – and the judiciary (particularly the constitutional court) is being recognised. New president Ramaphosa delivered an inspiring state of the nation address the day after being sworn in.

“You can survive bad leadership, but what you won’t survive is bad institutions,” Mmusi Maimane told me.

There are no delusions over the epic challenges ahead. Unemployment is at 27 per cent (and is much higher for young, black South Africans) and GDP growth is stranded at 1 per cent. However, there is optimism, too: the “lost decade” is over and the Rainbow Nation’s renewal has finally begun. 

This article first appeared in the 22 February 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia