Theresa May has been accused of trying to keep Parliament ‘in the dark’ about the cost of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, after Downing Street refused to commit to publishing secret economic impact assessments on any collapse in talks with Brussels.
Labour hit out as No 10 repeatedly ducked questions over whether MPs would see the Treasury cost-benefit analysis ahead of their “meaningful vote” later this year on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU.
May told reporters on Tuesday that Britain dropping out of the European Union next year without a deal would not be “the end of the world’, playing down Chancellor Philip Hammond’s warning that it could cost the country £80bn in extra borrowing.
The PM’s official spokesman said a Treasury analysis would be published on the economic impact of May’s final agreement with Brussels.
But he pointedly refused several times to say whether Parliament would be also be allowed access to a specific assessment on the costs of no deal – which would leave the UK resorting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade tariffs with the EU.
The spokesman said: “Obviously if the deal is negotiated, there is no ‘no deal’…and the analysis will set that out.”
Asked if the analysis would simply relate to May’s own deal, the spokesman said: “On the deal, yes.”
Put to the him that MPs had only a ‘take it or leave it’ vote and would demand a no deal analysis, he replied: “I’m not going to hypothesise on how Parliament is going to vote or not going to vote.
“There is a range of work that is being conducted. I’m not going to set out precisely what that work will set out.”
Anti-Brexit MPs suspect the confidential no deal study would be so damaging that May fears publication would risk a backlash from her Brexiteer backbenchers, many of whom distrust the Treasury and believe it is discredited by previous ‘Project Fear’ forecasts.
Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, told HuffPost UK: “It’s utterly unacceptable for Theresa May to try and keep Parliament in the dark over the cost of a no deal Brexit.
“The government’s failure in the Brexit negotiations now means there is a serious threat of the UK crashing out of Europe without an agreement. That could have a devastating impact on jobs, the economy and people’s livelihoods.
“MPs have a right to know the cost of this government’s failure before they vote on the final deal. By refusing to be honest with MPs and the British public, the Tories are once again making a mockery of their promise to take back control.”
The PM’s spokesman said: “Once the deal is agreed we have committed to provide Parliament with the appropriate analysis ahead of the meaningful vote. I can’t say more than that.
“In terms of no deal we have started the process of setting out what individuals and business would need to do in the highly unlikely event that we do have no deal and work continues to assess in any form the outcome of our negotiations
“Work continues on all facets of Brexit. Once the deal is negotiated then the analysis will be presented to Parliament. It will be a full set of analysis.”
Last week in a letter to Treasury Select Committee chairwoman Nicky Morgan, Hammond said: “The initial, January cross-Whitehall analysis is now undergoing a process of refinement in the run up to a parliamentary vote on the deal.
“However, we expect the analysis to show that for scenarios in which we have higher barriers to trade with the EU there will be a more damaging effect on the economy and public finances.”
Former Labour cabinet minister Andrew Adonis, part of the Best for Britain campaign, said: “After the Prime Minister and the Chancellor’s spat over these documents the public have a right to see them. Otherwise people will rightly believe the government have something to hide.
“The government cannot duck and weave on this, it is the most important issue in a generation and we deserve all the facts.”