David Mundell confirms Scotland Brexit impact study exists

UK Government analysis of how Brexit will impact the Scottish economy will be shared with Holyrood ministers despite Whitehall refusing to release it publicly, David Mundell has said.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: John DevlinScottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: John Devlin

David Davis’ Brexit department has refused to confirm or deny the existence of regional Brexit impact studies, but the Scottish Secretary said the information would be shared with the government in Edinburgh.

It follows publication of a London School of Economics study suggesting economic output in Scotland could fall by £30 billion over five years if Theresa May fails to secure a Brexit deal.

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Mr Mundell told MPs that he didn’t recognise the LSE study, and later called the figures “provocative”.

Appearing before the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee, he said ministers in Edinburgh and London agreed to share their analysis at the latest meeting of the .

Mr Mundell told MPs: “At the JMC(EN) [Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations] that we recently held, it was agreed that both governments had done a degree of analysis in relation to Brexit impact and that would be shared between governments.”

Responding to the LSE study, he added: “The government isn’t seeking to achieve the position of no-deal.

“What the government is doing is taking the responsible action to prepare for the fact that there might not be a deal.”

Asked by journalists later whether the UK Government’s analysis would be published, Mr Mundell did not rule out that it could be made public, saying that was “not a matter for discussion today”.

A former chief of staff at Mr Davis’ Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) has claimed that departmental analysis shows the Northeast of England and Scotland will be hit hardest by the UK’s exit from the EU.

Rejecting an FOI request from the Press Association for any data on how Brexit will affect Scotland, Dexeu said earlier this month that it could not confirm “whether information is held or not held may give insight which could in turn undermine the UK’s negotiations with the EU or adversely affect the UK’s national and regional interests.”

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The Dexeu response said publishing the analysis would provoke “precipitating preemptive and reactionary assumptions” that would damage the economy.

During the most recent JMC(EN) meeting, Mr Davis’ opposite number in the Scottish Government, Michael Russell is understood to have directly asked for the analysis, but was told that the department had conducted studies by economic sector, not by region.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, who questioned Mr Mundell about the impact analysis, said any data shared with the Scottish Government had to be made public.

“The Secretary of State for Scotland has revealed he will share official analysis of the impact of Brexit with the Scottish government– they must not sit on this work,” Ms Jardine said.

“The people of Scotland deserve to hear exactly what Brexit will mean for them.

“We have already seen the UK Government refusing to be truthful with the British public, I would hope that the Scottish Government do not blindly follow Westminster’s lead.”

SNP committee member Deidre Brock said the UK Government “must publish” its analysis.

“The LSE report makes it perfectly clear – Scotland will face a heavy price for being dragged out the European Single Market. Maintaining Scotland’s single market membership is vital to jobs and living standards.

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“Theresa May can’t sit on this impact assessment – the UK government’s analysis on Scotland must be released immediately.”

The committee also heard claims that Scottish Government officials have been dragging their feet in private talks over how new powers returning from Brussels after Brexit will be jointly managed by Edinburgh and London.

With ministers locked in negotiations over which powers in devolved areas will be held at Westminster and which will be passed on to Holyrood, civil servants across a number of departments have held dozens of meetings in a bid to agree technical details in areas where joint authority may be needed.

However, the Scotland Office minister Lord Duncan said a “change in approach” from Scottish Government officials was needed for progress to be made on ‘joint frameworks’ in areas such as agriculture.

“There have been an number of discussions with Defra [Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs], and Scottish Government officials are under instruction not to engage at a detailed level on that,” Lord Duncan said.

“It makes it a bit more difficult to see progress. The Northern Irish officials have taken part, the Welsh have as well.

“It makes it more difficult to establish the positions at an official level before we get into the politics of it. We’re hoping progress will be made at the official level, but there will require there to be a change in approach.”

Conservative committee member Ross Thomson suggested that Mr Russell may have “misled” MPs while giving evidence three weeks ago, by claiming it was “not true” that officials were refusing to cooperate with talks.

A Scottish Government source said: “These claims are utterly false - Scottish Government officials are fully engaged, but we have made clear that we will not agree to any power grab.”