The government has offered up a very strange reason for keeping Brexit studies secret

Theresa May Drugs
Sam Woolfe

The government has refused to publish a series of Brexit impact assessments, which detail how withdrawing from the EU will affect the British economy, jobs, trade and living standards. The public are very much being left in the dark about how Brexit will change the country. But now we have been given a reason for this secrecy. After Labour’s Seema Malhotra asked for information about the reports, the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) said releasing them would breach its “safe space”.

As Adam Bienkov, UK Political Editor at Business Insider, tweeted:

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What is the government trying to hide? 

DExEU said:

there is a strong public interest in policy making associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality and conducted in a safe space to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private.

DExEU is the government department overseeing negotiations in relation to Brexit. And it believes that telling the public about the effects of Brexit will be damaging. In its statement, DExEU said releasing the Brexit impact assessments:

may undermine the effective formulation or development of policies which are key to our negotiating strategy.

It added:

Without the necessary safe space for unreserved instruction in commissioning briefs, the quality of the eventual advice from the respective exercise would be diminished and would in turn lead to poorer decision making.

The impact of Brexit

The reason DExEU may not want us to see these reports may have to do with their potentially troubling findings. Earlier reports, like the one [pdf] published by the London School of Economics last year, for example, note (as do many economists) that a ‘hard Brexit’ would be most damaging to the UK economy. Which would also result in a lower level of employment. Yet Brexit Secretary David Davis is trying to paint a hard Brexit in a positive light.

Hiding the facts from the electorate isn’t new for the government. As author Ian Cobain describes in his book The History Thieves, a culture of secrecy has long been at the heart of the British government. The Brexit negotiations are just the latest example of this.

But however Brexit will affect the country, we all have a right to know the full details. The people have spoken: Brexit is happening. But in a truly democratic process, we should be entitled to know the exact outcome of our vote. Especially when it concerns such a crucial and transformative moment in our country’s history.

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