27 February 2019

 The Government’s No Deal assessment paper falls far short of giving MPs the information they need to vote on whether the UK is ready for a No Deal Brexit, writes Tim Durrant

The Government has finally published its assessment of the impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. Like so much of its Brexit communications, the document is disappointingly short on detail. If MPs are to make an educated choice in two weeks about whether the UK should leave without a deal, they need to be given much more information about what no deal would mean – and the real state of readiness for such an exit.

There are some useful titbits in the paper

The 12-page paper, which was clearly scrabbled together rather than being a straightforward publication of advice being sent to ministers, tells us some things we didn’t already know. For example, it kills off the myth that everything will be fine in Kent because the French are ready for no deal, saying that “even when [French preparations are] completed [they] would lead to new burdens”. It also puts into black and white the Prime Minister’s rubbishing of the possibility of using Article XXIV of the GATT to ensure tariff-free trade continues with the EU after no deal.

We also learn that the Government will (finally) tell us how it is going to manage trade across the border with Ireland in the case of no deal – but we don’t know when we’ll find it out. The Government also admits that it expects a no deal Brexit to make re-forming the Northern Ireland Executive even more difficult.

But it does not tell us how ready the Government is

The document fails to set out how ready the Government is for no deal. The only hint it gives is that departments are “on track for just under 85% of no deal projects”, but that they are only “on track for just over two thirds of the most critical projects.”

What are these critical projects that are off track? What is the impact of the Government not being ready? What is it doing to get preparations back on track? We have no idea. This is an abysmal failure given the Government’s promise to reveal what it knows about a no deal exit

The Government is starting the blame game – but it is the one who has created this situation

One recurring theme in the paper is the Government’s attempts to sidestep any responsibility. It points the finger at businesses who, “despite communications from the Government”, are not “preparing in earnest”, while apparently over half of UK adults do not expect to be affected by no deal. This may be because the Government has been telling them that “no deal is better than a bad deal” for over two years now.

This blame-shifting would be embarrassing from a child who has kicked a football through a window; from the Government of the United Kingdom it is unacceptable. The Government’s negotiating strategy has brought us to the brink of no deal and its lack of openness on what that really implies has meant that it has been near-impossible for businesses and individuals to prepare until it is far too late.

MPs will vote on no deal without knowing how (un)prepared the country is

If the Prime Minister’s tweaked Withdrawal Agreement is voted down again next month, the House of Commons will have a chance to formally approve or reject a no deal Brexit. If the Government does not provide more information on the state of its preparation – and take responsibility for the situation it has created – MPs will be voting without knowing the real ramifications of their choice.

As we have argued previously, MPs should use the next two weeks to properly probe the Government’s preparations. Parliament, and the country, deserve better.

Comments

Sorry, Brexit is a real waste of time, which is taken so childishly and without any serious views how it would impact and affect many UK people in UK and abroad. It would affect many EU citizens too, but obviously it is of lesser interest in UK. Government does not care at all about brexit consequences, turns the blind eye to what in fact brexit brings tomorrow or in several years later- I do not intend to count benefits EU brings to all members, UK included. But in my view, EU, although still politically imperfect, not evenly developed, brings huge advantage, prospects and benefits to all its citizens (aims to lift up quality of life, to protect human rights, bring security and safety, common laws should protect all inhabitants within time to the higher standard etc, etc. EU is not cheap, but wherever we live, we pay our taxes and we are not all happy what we get in return. EU is making things better, or allowing EU citizens to feel at home anywhere , nothing is wrong about it, - UBI BENE, UBI PATRIA. .

First class analysis.
Thank you for explaining this desperate position so clearly.

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