After the farce over the Irish border earlier this week, which resulted in the DUP tail wagging the Tory dog in full view of everyone attending the latest Brexit meeting in Brussels, and rumours that the “regulatory divergence” that was not proposed for Northern Ireland would not be proposed for the rest of the UK - effectively a “no-Brexit Brexit” - it might have been thought that things could not get any worse.
But that thought would have been misplaced, as the appearance of Brexit secretary David Davis before the Commons Brexit Committee this morning has shown. Committee chair Hilary Benn rumbled Davis more or less at the start, asking “has the government undertaken an assessment of the impact of Brexit?” to which the answer was “Not on a sector by sector basis”. And it soon got much worse.
As the Guardian has reported, “Davis says the government will quantify the effect of different negotiating outcomes for different sections of the economy later in the process … the government will not release the results, because that could help the other side in the negotiations … here would have been no point in doing impact assessments too early. He says the value of that exercise would have been close to zero”
There is one small problem with that - Davis has previously claimed that the Government had “50 to 60” sectoral analyses already done. So now we are supposed to suspend disbelief and accept that a “sectoral analysis” is not an “impact assessment”, and also that the Government did not think it worth it to figure out the likely consequences of leaving the EU before Theresa May set the Article 50 process in motion.
The Tory MPs on the Committee span and excused for all they were worth. Davis wanted to cut short his appearance before the Committee because he was “late for another appointment”. This, too, did not help his cause. He has, simply, been caught misleading Parliament and the country, or as most people call it, lying.
Condemnation was swift. After Adam Bienkov of Business Insider noted that Davis’ excuse for not producing impact assessments was because he “wasn’t a fan of them”, James Melville concluded “This is gross negligence. Our government are winging it on the biggest issue facing our country in 70 years. An appalling dereliction of duty”.
Labour’s David Lammy was less restrained: “At what point is @DavidDavisMP going to be held to account for such blatant lying? He must surely now resign. He simply can not be allowed to go around lying to Parliament and the British public in this way. Mendacious, conceited, vain, duplicitous, wholly unfit for office”. Message received and understood.
Paul Bernal simply asked in response to Lammy’s revelation that Davis had said something rather different in the Commons last month “How can he keep his job??” Will Black helpfully suggested the dog had ate the assessments (again). And author Jo Rowling offered an exasperated “There is no swearword in the English language big enough to do justice to my feelings at this moment”. But Davis is unlikely to resign.
After all, the Tory talent pool does not exactly run deep right now. So we continue to be the laughing stock of Europe, and the farce continues. This Government is not fit for purpose.