Umunna – Johnson and Davis throw Government into ‘no deal’ Brexit confusion

Theresa May has been asked to clear up the “shocking” confusion that has emerged today over the Government’s approach to contingency planning for Brexit with no deal.

Despite the fact that the Government has repeatedly said that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said today in the House of Commons that “there is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal.”

However, David Davis told the Andrew Marr Show in March that such planning had taken place. Today James Chapman, until recently Mr Davis’ adviser, called Boris Johnson’s statement “factually untrue.”

Chuka Umunna MP, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, has today written to the Prime Minister saying the confusion raises “urgent questions that must be answered.” These are: 

  • Has the Government conducted detailed contingency planning on the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, or has it not?
  • If the answer is yes, then what is the substance of these contingency plans, and will the Government commit to publishing these plans in detail so Parliament and the public can debate and scrutinise them?  If the answer is no, how can the Government explain such a shocking lack of future planning?
  • How does the Government expect to conduct negotiations with the European Union when even its own Ministers do not seem to know what if any contingency planning has taken place?

In the letter to the Prime Minister, Chuka Umunna MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, writes:

“You and your Ministers have repeatedly said in reference to leaving the European Union that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” But today in the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary stated that the Government has “no plan for no deal.” This admission would be shocking in its own right, as such a serious possible scenario requires detailed contingency planning by the Government.

“However, the Foreign Secretary’s admission also directly contradicts previous statements made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis. In March, Mr Davis clearly stated that officials had put together contingency plans for a no-deal outcome. He even added that the Cabinet had been briefed on these plans. To add to the confusion, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU’s former Chief of Staff, James Chapman, has today labelled the Foreign Secretary’s claim of there being “no plan for no deal” as “factually incorrect”.

“These directly contradictory statements emanating from senior members of Cabinet expose a worrying level of confusion within your Government regarding the possible outcomes of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Either the Government has conducted contingency plans regarding a possible ‘no-deal’ scenario, or it has not. Both cannot be true.

“As has been repeatedly demonstrated by numerous business groups, employee groups, experts and studies, a ‘no-deal’ scenario would be a disaster for Britain. The impact on the British economy, on British jobs, on standards of living for British citizens and on the rights of Britons living in the EU would be devastating. The Government must abandon its pretence that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, when we all know that no deal would be the worst of all possible outcomes. Voters will be shocked to learn of the possibility that the Government still has not conducted contingency planning for such a scenario.  If it transpires that the Foreign Secretary’s statement today was incorrect, it exposes a Government that is approaching the most important negotiations for generations in a state of total confusion.”

/ends 

Notes to editors:

The quotes by Boris Johnson, David Davis and James Chapman are all reported here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/boris-johnson-says-there-is-no-plan-for-brexit-without-a-deal-but-david-davis-said-there-was_uk_5964c809e4b005b0fdc83d3d?z9t

The full text of Chuka Umunna’s letter to Theresa May follows: 

Dear Prime Minister,

You and your Ministers have repeatedly said in reference to leaving the European Union that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” But today in the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary stated that the Government has “no plan for no deal.” This admission would be shocking in its own right, as such a serious possible scenario requires detailed contingency planning by the Government.

However, the Foreign Secretary’s admission also directly contradicts previous statements made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis. In March, Mr Davis clearly stated that officials had put together contingency plans for a no-deal outcome. He even added that the Cabinet had been briefed on these plans. To add to the confusion, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU’s former Chief of Staff, James Chapman, has today labelled the Foreign Secretary’s claim of there being “no plan for no deal” as “factually incorrect”.

These directly contradictory statements emanating from senior members of Cabinet expose a worrying level of confusion within your Government regarding the possible outcomes of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Either the Government has conducted contingency plans regarding a possible ‘no-deal’ scenario, or it has not. Both cannot be true. Today’s events raise a number of urgent questions that must be answered: 

  • Has the Government conducted detailed contingency planning on the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, or has it not?
  • If the answer is yes, then what is the substance of these contingency plans, and will the Government commit to publishing these plans in detail so Parliament and the public can debate and scrutinise them?  If the answer is no, how can the Government explain such a shocking lack of future planning?
  • How does the Government expect to conduct negotiations with the European Union when even its own Ministers do not seem to know what if any contingency planning has taken place? 

As has been repeatedly demonstrated by numerous business groups, employee groups, experts and studies, a ‘no-deal’ scenario would be a disaster for Britain. The impact on the British economy, on British jobs, on standards of living for British citizens and on the rights of Britons living in the EU would be devastating. The Government must abandon its pretence that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, when we all know that no deal would be the worst of all possible outcomes. Voters will be shocked to learn of the possibility that the Government still has not conducted contingency planning for such a scenario.  If it transpires that the Foreign Secretary’s statement today was incorrect, it exposes a Government that is approaching the most important negotiations for generations in a state of total confusion.

I await your response to these questions with interest.

Yours sincerely, 

Chuka Umunna MP