Davis accused of misleading parliament over Brexit impact studies

Catherine Neilan
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Political Activity In Westminster Following Theresa May's Cabinet Appointments
MPs said statements by Davis appear to contradict themselves. (Source: Getty)

David Davis has been accused of "misleading parliament" over Brexit impact studies, with MPs looking to establish whether he has held parliament in contempt over the matter.

The Brexit secretary this morning told MPs no impact assessments had been carried out for sectors, or the impact of leaving the customs union, saying the value of such work was "near zero" given the "paradigm change" represented by leaving the EU.

But MPs pointed to a number of statements Davis had made over previous months which appear to contradict this claim. As recently as six weeks ago, he said impact assessments existed in "excruciating detail", and shortly afterwards he published a list of the sectors that the work covered.

A few hours after his appearance, Pete Wishart used a point of order to ask about the assessments, claiming the government must be in contempt.

Wishart has written to the speaker about this, and said he awaits his reply. David Lammy told Bercow he should expect other MPs to do likewise.

Pro-Remain MP Chuka Umunna quoted Davis from this morning and compared it with his words from 20 October.

Umunna said there had been a "clear contradiction" in Davis' words "which to me provides strong evidence that perhaps this house has been misled on this issue."

Speaker John Bercow said it would not be right to "engage in textual exegesis on the floor of the house", but added he would consider a "completed consideration of the [Brexit] committee" and make a judgement on whether Davis had misled parliament at that point.

Last week shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer warned Davis could be in contempt of parliament for the heavy editing of what studies have been released.

Conservative MP and Treasury select committee chair Nicky Morgan told City A.M. it was "breathtaking" that government had not assessed the impact of "something we already know is affecting the economy, is affecting people's lives".

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who sits on the Brexit Select Committee, went further.

"It is unbelievable that these long-trumpeted impact assessments don't even exist, meaning the government has no idea what their Brexit plans will do to the country," she said.

"Whether it’s through incompetence or insincerity, David Davis has been misleading Parliament from the start.

"He is being completely blasé about the threat Brexit poses to our NHS, economy and young people.The utter shambles this government is making of Brexit shows why the public must be given the final say with a chance to stay in the EU.”

Fellow committee member and Labour MP Seema Malhotra said: "We are through the looking glass. This government are the blind leading the blind, making policy decisions without facts or evidence. This is the most important change for our country for generations and people need confidence that the government is prepared. Instead it appears they are taking the biggest gamble with our economy and risking the prosperity of businesses and families across the country.

"Parliament and the public need clarity and complete honesty from ministers. Brexit is too important to be dealt with in this way. If the government has genuinely not done assessments of the impact of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union or the impact of no deal on the economy, it is an utter dereliction of duty.”

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