December 21, 2017 / 1:39 PM / in 5 months

Critics accuse UK government of not taking Brexit preparations seriously enough

LONDON (Reuters) - Pro-European campaigners accused ministers of failing to take preparations for Brexit seriously enough on Thursday, after a committee of lawmakers published the government’s sector-by-sector analysis on the impact of leaving the European Union.

Anti Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The analyses have become a focal point for critics of the government’s approach to Brexit since last year’s referendum vote to leave.

The government revealed in October the 58 economic sectors it had analyzed to help it prepare for leaving, but refused requests to publish them. Brexit minister David Davis said the reports contained “excruciating detail” and that their publication could undermine negotiations with the EU.

However, lawmakers demanded to see the papers and used an unusual parliamentary procedure to compel the government to hand them over to a parliamentary committee. The committee published them on Thursday, but with some sensitive sections redacted.

“There is little or nothing in them that couldn’t be learned from the annual reports of different trade bodies,” said Pat McFadden, a member of the committee and spokesman for the Open Britain campaign group.

“Breezy busking won’t cut it when people’s jobs and livelihoods are on the line. Winging it should not be a matter of principle,” the opposition Labour Party lawmaker said. 

Since his initial remarks, Davis has stressed that the work does not constitute a formal impact assessment - a detailed document setting out the economic implications of policy decisions. He said earlier this month that it was too soon for such work to have been conducted.

The documents released on Thursday cover sectors from asset management to tourism, describing each sector, the current EU regulatory regime and a summary of how trade is conducted in these areas. A section entitled ‘sector views’ was redacted by the committee.

Non-profit organization The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which has previously warned of the risks posed by leaving the EU, also criticized the documents.

“What leaps out at you is the total absence of analysis. Search, and you do not find,” said the organization’s director Richard Black.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison

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