OPINION
05/08/2019 10:43 BST | Updated 05/08/2019 10:50 BST

Boris Johnson Should Publish The Civil Service's No-Deal Impact Papers

If the country isn’t ready for a hard Brexit, the public deserve to know before they’re launched into the abyss, Frances O'Grady and Sir Bob Kerslake write.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Working people in Britain need radical change. The frustrations that boiled over in 2016 have only intensified in the three years since.

And it’s no wonder. A decade on from the financial crisis, wages still haven’t recovered, insecure work is booming, and inequality is denying working families the opportunity to thrive. There are deep divisions in wealth and opportunity across the country.

The message to politicians is clear: working people want progress on the domestic agenda. They want decent levels of funding for schools, hospitals and other public services. They want secure, well-paid jobs and more vibrant local economies. They want to be able to plan a decent future for themselves and their families.

In response, the new prime minister has made some big promises.

But he must know, as we do, the kind of change that Britain urgently needs simply can’t be delivered if we crash out of the EU without a deal.

The immediate impact will be devastating. A plunge into recession – calculated by the Bank of England as 1 in 3 chance even with a smooth Brexit.

The value of the pound will slump and the price of the weekly shop will jump. And as leaked documents revealed on Friday there will be shortages of medicine and food supplies.

In the longer term, the shrinking of the economy – the Treasury predicts a £90bn hit between now and 2035 – would have immense knock-on effects on the public finances. It would drag down productivity, tax revenues and consumer spending power, leaving government with less money to spend on vital public services.

After a decade of crippling austerity that is the last thing working people and their communities need.

It will fuel the anti-politics mood sweeping the country – that is bad for our democracy and is emboldening the far-right.

What’s more, a no-deal Brexit will cost time and energy that would be much better spent elsewhere.

The chaotic approach being threatened by government won’t put an end to the Brexit nightmare – it will drag it out.

A no-deal Brexit will continue to jam the gears of Westminster and Whitehall, preventing progress on the issues that really matter to working people – such as improving living standards and local services and reviving our high streets.

No one knows the true costs of a no-deal Brexit better than the prime minister. Every civil service department has produced analysis and contingency plans and provided advice to ministers on what impact a no deal will have.

Boris Johnson has been extensively briefed on exactly what a no deal will look like and it’s time he shared that information with the public.

If the country isn’t ready, then the public deserve to know before they’re launched into the abyss. And if we are ready to face a no deal – as the Prime Minister so confidently insists – then why not publish the independent analysis to prove it?

Rather than spending millions on propaganda that seeks to normalise no-deal, its time they levelled with people about the huge disruption it will cause

Publishing advice from the civil service isn’t ordinary practice but – in these extraordinary times – it is in the prime minister’s gift.

Ministers know the risks and consequences. They know that the impacts of no deal will be felt by working people for generations to come. 

Rather than spending millions on propaganda that seeks to normalise no-deal, its time they levelled with people about the huge disruption it will cause.

It’s deeply worrying that in the short tenure of Boris Johnson’s government, no deal has moved from being a remote possibility and become a central assumption of our politics, indeed the most likely outcome if the Prime Minister sees through his ‘do or die’ commitment to leave on the 31 October.

Ultimately, any responsible government would rule out no deal as simply too risky and too damaging. Parliament must assert its role to stop it if the government is not prepared to change course. Then it’s time to give power back to the people and let them have the final say.

Frances O’Grady is the General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress

Sir Bob Kerslake is the former head of the Civil Service

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