Brexit impact assessments: did the government bluff about their existence?

Published: 8th Dec 2017

In brief

Claim

David Davis and Theresa May said on nine separate occasions in the House of Commons that they'd done, or were doing... around 58 sectoral analyses

Conclusion

We have found ten cases where Mr Davis, one of his ministers, or Theresa May referred to or acknowledged the existence of 50+ sectoral analyses or assessments in the House of Commons or at a select committee.

 

David Davis has never said the government had impact assessments of the effect Brexit on different parts of the economy.

 

Although David Davis has never directly said “impact assessments”, as far as we can tell, he did confirm the existence of 57 impact assessments to a select committee.

Claim 1 of 2

“He [David Davis] has never actually referred to impact assessments [on the effect of Brexit]. These were a fiction of the media and the Labour party.”

Bernard Jenkin MP, 7 December 2017

“The reality is that David Davis and Theresa May said on nine separate occasions in the House of Commons that they'd done, or were doing, 58, sometimes he said 57, sometimes 60, but around 58 sectoral analyses that were absolutely meant to show what the impact of Brexit would be on those different sectors, and he now says that there aren’t.”

Owen Smith MP, 7 December 2017

This is the debate about whether or not the government bluffed about having detailed assessments of the impact of Brexit on different parts of the economy.

“They are in excruciating detail”

On 25 October 2017, at the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, Seema Malhotra noted that Mr Davis had previously “confirmed that DExEU [Department for Exiting the European Union] was carrying out 57 sets of sectoral analysis on the impact on the economy of Brexit”. Mr Davis confirmed that these analyses were in his department’s possession.

Ms Malhotra then asked “Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments… yes or no?”

After clarifying that Ms Malhotra was referring to reports that had not yet been published, Mr Davis responded “She will know the summary outcomes of them. She will not necessarily have read every single one. They are in excruciating detail.”

Although Mr Davis has not, as far as we have found, used the term “impact assessment” himself, he did confirm to MPs the existence of something referred to as impact assessments. He also confirmed that there were 57, in “excruciating detail”.

By December he was saying that “There were no 58 sectoral impact assessments; there was sectoral analysis.”

Since the House of Commons voted to demand copies of the impact assessments the government has put a lot of weight on the distinction between ‘impact assessments’ and ‘sectoral analyses’, as we point out below. It’s up to you whether you think that’s a vital difference or different words for the same thing in this context.

If the distinction is important, then at best the government allowed a misunderstanding about how informed its negotiations were by not correcting MPs who asked about impact assessments back in October.

What the government has said, in its own words

Below is a list of every quote we could find from a relevant government official on impact assessments and sectoral analyses. We do not know if they include all “nine separate occasions” referred to by Owen Smith.

5 September 2016: David Davis to the House of Commons: “my officials, supported by officials across Government, are carrying out programme of sectoral analysis and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for some 50 sectors of British business.”

20 October 2016: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We currently have in place an assessment of 51 sectors of the economy. We are looking at those one by one, but the aim at the end is that this will inform the negotiating approach so that no one gets hurt.”

14 December 2016: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union: “We are in the midst of carrying out about 57 sets of analyses, each of which has implications for individual parts of 85% of the economy… everything except sectors that are not affected by international trade.”

17 January 2017: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We have paid an enormous amount of attention to business, finance, manufacturing, aviation, energy and so on—every single sector; 51 different sectors—to get the best possible deal that suits all of them. We will continue to do so.”

2 February 2017: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy, covering more than 50 sectors—I think it was 58 at the last count—to shape our negotiating position.”

26 June 2017: Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, response to a written question: “Our work covers the breadth of the UK economy, and we are looking in detail at more than 50 sectors as well as areas of cross-cutting regulation… I can confirm that we will shortly be publishing the list of sectors we have been examining”

25 October 2017: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union:

Seema Malhotra: “All of those assessments and the decision to not publish them at this point would be in your department.”

Mr Davis: Of that 57, yes they would.

Seema Malhotra: Could I ask you another question?  You have answered that question; that was very helpful.  Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments that have been published, yes or no?

Mr Davis: The details of them?  Sorry, did you say “have been published”?

Seema Malhotra: Sorry, I am just asking whether she has seen the impact assessments.  A yes or no answer is fine.

Mr Davis: Which ones?  I will give a proper answer; I do not give yes/no answers.

Seema Malhotra: I mean the impact assessments that you have not published.

Mr Davis: That we have not published?

Seema Malhotra: Yes.

Mr Davis: She will know the summary outcomes of them.  She will not necessarily have read every single one.  They are in excruciating detail.

30 October 2017: David Davis to the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee: “Government has been looking at more than 50 areas of activity, or sectors… We set out below, in alphabetical order, 58 sectors.”

1 November 2017: Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, to the House of Commons: “I have explained that the analysis is not a series of 58 economic impact assessments. It is a cross-sectoral analysis.”

3 November 2017: David Davis to Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee: “As we have made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist… it is not, nor has it ever been, a series of discrete impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on these sectors.”

7 November 2017: David Davis written statement to the House of Commons: “The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum… It is not, nor has it ever been, a series of discrete impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on these sectors.”

6 December 2017: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union:

Chair: Just to be clear, have the Government undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors of the economy?

Mr Davis: Not in sectors... so there is no systematic impact assessment.

6 December 2017: Theresa May to the House of Commons: “The House requested, as I understand it, 58 sectoral impact assessments. There were no 58 sectoral impact assessments; there was sectoral analysis.”

This House of Commons Library briefing also has a rundown of what has been said.

“Impact assessments” vs “sectoral analyses”

Following the House of Commons vote, on 1 November 2017, “that the impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the Committee on Exiting the European Union”, Mr Davis and his team began to emphasise the difference between an impact assessment and a sectoral analysis.

For example, in that same debate on 1 November 2017, the Undersecretary of State for DExEU said “I have explained that the analysis is not a series of 58 economic impact assessments. It is a cross-sectoral analysis”.

On 3 November 2017, Mr Davis told the chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, “As we have made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist… Let me clarify exactly what this sectoral analysis is. It is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum.”

This culminated in Mr Davis seeming to tell the Select Committee on 6 December 2017 that no impact assessments exist: “Not in sectors… there is no systematic impact assessment”

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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