In an extraordinary moment in a week full of them, it became clear yesterday that Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis has been bluffing on Brexit, and that the 58 (or 57, or 50–60) impact assessments he has alluded to for months, and which were requested by Parliament six weeks ago, do not, in fact, exist.
MP David Lammy has called on the speaker, John Bercow, to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings, and Bercow is considering his options, after the Tory-stacked committee for exiting the EU voted along party lines not to recommend censuring Davis. (It’s okay, apparently, not to provide impact assessments to Parliament if you never actually did any, so there.)
As professionals and bureaucrats of every stripe express amazement at the thought of undertaking system-wide change without any sort of impact assessment at all, lawyer David Allen Green points out that the UK’s “silent loss of credibility as a serious negotiating party will have more long-term adverse consequences for [its] goals of post-Brexit trade agreements than anything which is positively agreed as part of the exit agreement”.
Coming hard on the heels of the Northern Ireland border omnishambles, with little sign of acceptable progress on at least two and potentially any of the three conditions that have to be met in phase one of Brexit negotiations, prime minister Theresa May and her minority government have a week to achieve what they’ve failed to in 18 months if the European Council is to agree to move on to trade talks at its 15 December meeting.
Having conducted their own organisational impact assessments, big companies are stepping up their plans in case Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal. Some 10 percent have started implementing their plans for a no-deal scenario, a proportion that will rise to 60 percent by March. Perhaps they’ve read the Brexit impact studies commissioned by the European Parliament and published online between June 2016 and November 2017.
Davis has to go, and this lazy, incompetent, irresponsible, reckless, hubristic, bloviating, pathetic excuse for a government has to fall, over this. If not this, then what? Almost every other trigger for a vote of no confidence in British history pales into insignificance by comparison.
I personally never bought into the whole “let’s give it a chance, maybe Brexit will work out for the best” line, because I didn’t believe it for a minute: the least-worst option is extra-soft-Brexit-in-name-only, which would still entail losing all influence over the EU regulations we would have to abide by to maintain access, and that really is losing our sovereignty, not like the leavers’ suggestion that we lost sovereignty by pooling some of our powers with our neighbours in a wider body where we enjoyed disproportionate influence.
What I did maintain was the hope that the Brexit process would collapse under its own obvious contradictions and would eventually be stopped before it took place. That hope wavered when May triggered Article 50, then recovered; but now I’m worried that we’ll end up getting most of the pain of an actual Brexit even if we do revoke Article 50 (which I still think is quite likely, one way or another), because this government’s going to take us so close to the cliff-edge that everyone else will already have written us off for dead.
Added by Rory on 7 December 2017.