The Conservative government is hiding more than 50 Brexit reports not only from the public, but from parliament. Former Brexit minister David Jones has confirmed that the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) has “conducted analysis of over 50 sectors of the economy”.
Unless the DExEU publishes the reports within 14 days, the government department faces legal action from the Good Law Project and Green MEP Molly Scott Cato.
‘Covering the government’s blushes’
Jolyon Maugham QC, Head of the Good Law Project, said:
This is our government, it must act in our interests, and we must be free to scrutinise it to ensure that it does. These studies will inform decisions which will have a profound impact on our futures. There is a clear legal and principled case to say that these studies should not be hidden from public view.
But the Conservative government has argued that releasing the documents would “undermine the government’s ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain”.
Scott Cato, who was the Greens’ 2017 parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, doesn’t buy it:
The European referendum was all about taking back control but how can our democratic representatives make decisions in our interests when the government is withholding vital information? It has been clear for some time that the attempt to keep the Brexit impact studies secret is more to cover the government’s blushes than to enable efficient law-making. The rule of law requires that MPs know what Brexit really means before they formally vote for our withdrawal.
Neither does Gina Miller, who successfully took the government to court over withholding a parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50 – the process for leaving the EU. She told The Independent:
Their view is that gives away their negotiating position but it’s not true. The reports are not going to say what it is you’re going to negotiate, what is says is these are the consequences.
Besides, it’s unclear how the Brexit talks could get worse. Downing Street has refused to deny reports that Theresa May was “begging for help” at a dinner with President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
As Labour’s Stephen Doughty says, the government hiding the 50 assessments only “heightens suspicions” about the “destructive consequences” of a hard Brexit.
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Featured image via David Mirzoeff