POLITICS

David Davis Has 'Duty To Understand' Brexit Risks, Warn Union Bosses

The stakes are too high to leave things to chance."

07/12/2017 16:57 GMT | Updated 07/12/2017 17:04 GMT

Union chiefs have written to David Davis after the Brexit Secretary revealed the Government failed to carry out any economic impact assessments of leaving the EU. 

The TUC’s Frances O’Grady has said she was “dismayed” by Davis’ admission and she felt the Government had so little information ministers were effectively negotiating “blindfolded”. 

Davis was accused of being in contempt of Parliament after told MPs the 58 sectoral assessments - demanded by MPs - did not, in fact, exist, adding he thought their usefulness was “near zero”.

Frances OGrady and Steve Turners letter to David Davis
Frances O'Grady and Steve Turner's letter to David Davis

He previously handed MPs two lever-arch files containing 850 pages of “sectoral analyses” which simply set out positions on various parts of the UK economy and has admitted no “systematic” impact assessment was available.

O’Grady sent a letter to Davis with Steve Turner, the TUC General Council’s Europe spokesman, voicing anger. 

“People have a right to know what Brexit means for them, their families, and their livelihoods,” they weite. “They cannot afford for the Government to go into the most important negotiations in a generation blindfolded.”

They go on: “Workers also need to know exactly what contingency plans are being put in place for their jobs and industries. They cannot be kept in the dark. 

“We believe that the interests and concerns of working people should be government’s highest priority.  Ministers meet frequently with business leaders and must ensure they listen to the concerns of worker representatives on the same terms.

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Frances O'Grady has written to Davis

“We need a fresh, transparent, considered, and inclusive approach from government towards brexit. The stakes are too high to leave things to chance.”

A reading room has been established to allow MPs and peers access to the 850-page dossier of information and analyses provided by Davis.

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom claimed Labour MPs said so far just 16 MPs and peers had been given access to the bundle. 

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz challenged Leadsom over the “invisible papers” and criticised the “secretive” viewing process.

She told MPs: “It’s highly bizarre.

“Members have to make an appointment, have to arrive five minutes early, you then get escorted to look at the papers by a Government official, you can’t take a mobile phone in, you have to take a notebook, and presumably we’re given a stubby pencil or maybe a pen with invisible ink.” 

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She added: “If there is nothing in the papers, why is it so secretive? But the biggest why is why has the Government not conducted the impact assessments when this is affecting 88% of our economy?”

Leadsom replied: “The Opposition have absolutely caused enormous headlines and publicity over this issue.

“The House will be interested to know the sum total of 16 members of this House and the House of Lords have taken the trouble to see that analysis that has been made available.

“Of course it’s very important, as all honourable members should respect, that the freedom of civil servants to discuss freely and give advice freely to ministers must be upheld.

“That is why it’s important these reports are held in a confidential and secure way so those that have a need and an interest in reading them can do so.

“But I say again, only 16 members across both Houses have availed themselves of that opportunity.”