Anyone with an interest in the future of the UK economy needs to be aware of the potential consequences of the Government’s priorities and approach to Brexit. Without knowing the risks and potential consequences it is very hard for anyone to plan to respond to them.
It would make sense for a Government to assess the potential impact of the course it has chosen to chart. And indeed it has. The Department for Exiting the European Union has completed no less than 50 different risk studies. The problem is that they have been locked away, unpublished and not shared with anyone outside a handful of individuals in government. Worse still, there now is doubt that ministers have read these reports properly – with Cabinet Ministers suggesting the Prime Minister hasn’t taken the time to read them fully. I find that extraordinary.
GMB first called on the Government to publish its economic risk assessments on the consequences of its approach, priorities and decisions relating to leaving the EU in January. Today I have written to the Prime Minister calling on her to order the publication of all the government’s different Brexit risk assessments alongside next month’s Budget.
Keeping this information from the public is preventing all of us with an interest in safeguarding UK jobs from working together with the full information to navigate the challenges, mitigate the risks and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise as we leave the European Union. The publication of these reports matters a great deal to GMB – yet Government departments are keeping all of those with an interest in the success of UK industries in the dark.
The public also want to see the risk reports published. In March 2017, GMB published opinion polling which showed more than twice as many members of the public want to see these reports published than those who do not.
Yet it seems the only way those outside of Government can get a sense of how the UK economy as a whole might fare under the different Brexit scenarios is to look overseas.
Earlier this month research from Rabobank, a financial institution based in the Netherlands, warned of a series of economic recession scenarios of varying severity and length for the UK according to the different choices the UK Government might take prior to the point of leaving the UK. It warned hard Brexit could cost UK economy £400bn by 2030. The German Confederation of Industry and their Chambers have warned German firms investing in the UK of extra costs of new customs arrangements, new regulations and in particular the loss of ‘just in time’ arrangements to manufacturing in the UK. It seems incredible to have to rely on overseas calculations to glimpse the impact of UK Government policies on the UK’s economy because Ministers won’t be transparent.
The Secretary of State for International Trade wrote in his foreword to the Government policy paper ‘Preparing for our Future UK Trade Policy’ that ‘our approach to developing our future trade policy must be transparent and inclusive.’ Warm words, but hard to take this seriously while the risk reports remain hidden.
Brexit is the first test of the government’s commitment to having an industrial strategy. As well as publish the risk reports, I would like Ministers to call a series of sectoral meetings with industry representatives, including trade unions, to examine the risks and consequences to jobs, skills, investment and economic needs.
Let’s get around the table together and do everything we can to help the UK’s jobs and industries.
Ministers should start listening to what trade unions, employers and sector bodies say in response to sight of the risk reports and factor that into their decision-making relating to Brexit. It’s what any responsible government would do.
During the referendum the Leave campaign’s slogan was ‘take back control’ – not ‘let’s fly blind’.
Continued refusal to publish them will only increase suspicion that the Government has something to hide and is making decisions relating to Brexit against the economic interests of working people. They now have an opportunity to show whether that suspicion is unfounded.
The time has come. In truth, it’s long overdue. The Government must publish the risk reports in the run up to the Budget and then listen and engage with all those who have an interest in creating and defending jobs in the UK. The nights are drawing in but we can’t afford a government that insists on keeping the country in the dark.