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21 December 2017

The government has finally handed in its Brexit homework. I’d give it a D

Today's release of 39 of the nearly 60 Brexit sectoral analysis papers is both an event and a complete non-event.

Finally the government finally saw sense and realised it needed to show the country its homework. But any teacher marking this work would give it a D. 

These documents have been slaved over by a team in the Department for Exiting the EU, but it’s clearly been a last minute rush job and the reports are sadly utterly devoid of detail. It is a shoddy use of staff time, taxpayers’ cash and most of the information is publicly available.

My instant reaction is that this is the biggest case of “the dog ate my homework” the world has ever seen. We’ve been given binders of old information, extracts from Wikipedia, and a few choice quotes, and yet nothing at all on how Brexit will hit each sector. All commentary and no analysis.

The just-published Brexit impact report on health and social care says nothing about the impact of Brexit on health and social care. Plus all views from the sector, which must have included councils’ views, are redacted. A pointless document. 

We also get to read that we are an island nation. Well…there you go. Apparently, the food and agriculture sector “is vital for consumers”. Thanks, DExEU, for that startling insight. Also today, via these documents we learned the parts of an aircraft include the “nose, fuselage, wings, engine nacelles and tail”.

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Today’s release of 39 of the nearly 60 Brexit sectoral analysis papers is both an event and a complete non-event all at once. All the impact assessments seem to start with a blurb that includes this paragraph:

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“As the government has already made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist.”

Starting each report with a reminder that David Davis misled Parliament is an extraordinary opener. 

Each report then summarises the size and nature of a sector of the economy, including reference to its relationship with EU regulation. But there does not seem to be any reference to the potential difficulties posed by Brexit, and in each document the section entitled “sector views” has been redacted by the committee.

On a more positive note, confirmation that Davis isn’t in control of his brief and the dossiers are a total embarrassment to the UK came about because of a group effort. Best for Britain joined with over 170 MPs, who came out in support of the call for the release of these long overdue sector-by-sector impact studies of the likely effects of Brexit, in its various forms, on the UK economy.

The ball was set rolling by an open letter from David Lammy and Seema Malhotra, which gained the backing of more than 120 Members of Parliament as well as MEP Molly Scott Cato, and House of Lords members Lord Cashman, and Lord Peter Hain. In the end Labour used the opportunity to take the issue to a vote.

The government was humbled in parliament with their first significant loss on a Brexit issue, and that paved the way to today. Until we see all documents in public domain and get answers we wil carry on to put pressure on the government and MPs, and we hope you do too.

Eloise Todd is the chief executive of Best for Britain, which campaigns for MPs to get a meaningful vote on Brexit.