MPs demand Boris Johnson comes clean on Brexit hit to UK economy

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
MPs are demanding details on how Johnson's deal could affect the UK economy. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

MPs are urging the UK government to lay out how prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal could affect the economy ahead of their crunch vote in parliament on Saturday.

Politicians have been left with just two days to decide whether to back the new divorce agreement, after UK and EU negotiators announced their breakthrough and published the details on Thursday.

The UK government needs to win over wavering MPs from across parties as it lacks a majority in parliament, but now faces growing pressure to make clear how it could affect British jobs and firms in years to come.

The previous administration under former prime minister Theresa May had published a detailed economic analysis, which predicted various Brexit scenarios including May’s deal could significantly dent economic growth.

READ MORE: ‘We’ve been here before’: businesses gives Johnson’s Brexit deal a cautious welcome

Now the head of an influential cross-party group of MPs on parliament’s Treasury committee has written to chancellor Sajid Javid, urging the government to clarify how it believes its revised agreement will affect GDP.

Catherine McKinnell, interim chair of the committee and a Labour MP, said: “The Treasury committee asked HM Treasury whether the government has updated its economic analysis of Brexit three months ago, yet we are still awaiting a response.

“When MPs vote on the government’s new deal on Saturday, we should do so with as much information as possible. I have asked the chancellor, therefore, to respond prior to the meaningful vote.”

Several think tanks and business groups have already warned the deal could increase the cost and difficulties of trading with Europe, with less commitment to frictionless trade than under May’s deal or current arrangements.

Marley Morris, trade director at the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank, said: “Boris Johnson’s new deal with the EU paves the way for a rupture with the EU. The new political declaration reveals he is heading towards a more distant UK-EU relationship than Theresa May proposed, involving more trade barriers and less cooperation.

“And the withdrawal agreement removes the arrangements for a UK-EU customs union, thereby eliminating a key barrier in his ambitions for a hard Brexit.”

The IPPR notes Johnson’s deal has removed references to alignment with EU rules, and acknowledges firms will face fresh bureaucracy trading with Europe through new ‘rules of origin’ checks on where goods have come from.

It has also downgraded a commitment to maintain environmental, social and employment standards at current levels from the legally binding withdrawal agreement to the non-legally binding political declaration.

A government spokesman said: “We will negotiate a comprehensive and ambitious FTA with the EU, which will be good for our economy and businesses.

“This stage of the negotiations has focussed on the withdrawal agreement rather than the future trade deal, the specific nature of which will be subject to the outcome of the next phase of negotiation. We will keep parliament updated throughout the negotiations, including providing analysis at appropriate times.”