- REUTERS/Toby Melville
- Theresa May will hand the Brexit impact report leaked to BuzzFeed this week over to MPs.
- The government has agreed to release the report following pressure from Labour and MPs across the House of Commons.
- Brexit minister Steve Baker said on Tuesday releasing the report at this stage would harm the national interest and Britain’s Brexit negotiating position.
LONDON – The UK government is going to hand over the leaked Brexit impact assessment to MPs in a major climbdown.
May’s government had insisted that publishing the paper, which suggests that all of the likely Brexit scenarios would slow Britain’s economic growth, would be damaging to “the national interest”.
However, a spokesperson for the government said on Wednesday that the government will “comply with the will of the House” and release the report into how Brexit could impact sectors of the economy as soon as practically possible.
“If the house decides it wants to see this analysis, even though it is provisional and has not gone through the proper processes, we will abide by the will of the house,” a government spokesperson told Business Insider.
DExEU minister Robin Walker told MPs that a hard copy of the paper would be sent to Brexit committee Chair Hilary Benn, with MPs able to access it inside parliament.
May’s decision to release the report is in reaction to a parliamentary motion on the issue tabled by Labour.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer will this evening use an archaic parliamentary mechanism to give MPs a binding vote on whether the government should publish the assessment.
“People voted to leave the European Union in part to give Parliament control about its own future. That means giving MPs the information they need to scrutinise the Government’s approach to Brexit,” Starmer said.
“They should accept this motion and allow the country to have an informed debate about its relationship with Europe after Brexit.”
It is the same mechanism that triggered a Commons vote on whether May should release an earlier Brexit assessment towards the end of last year.
However, the prime minister has decided to avoid a parliamentary showdown by agreeing to release the analysis once the parliamentary vote has taken place. Conservative MPs have been told to abstain from the vote.
The document, which was put together by civil servants this month and then leaked to Buzzfeed News, shows that Britain would see lower economic growth under every likely Brexit scenario modelled.
The analysis looked at the impact of Britain leaving with either a free trade agreement, a Norway-style single market deal, or a no-deal scenario.
Under all three scenarios, Britain would be worse off than if the country decided to remain in the European Union, according to the analysis, which was intended to be presented to May’s Cabinet in private over the coming days.
It found that with no deal, UK economic growth would be 8% lower than remaining in the EU and with a free trade agreement it would be 5% lower.
Even under the ‘softest’ option of remaining inside the European Economic Area but leaving the EU, growth would be 2% lower than staying in.
Former Conservative minister and Chair of the Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan today wrote to the Brexit secretary David Davis to call for the document to be published in full immediately
“To ensure that Parliament and the public have the best-informed debate about the future of the UK outside the EU, the Government should publish this document immediately,” she said in a statement.
“The document can hardly undermine the Government’s negotiating position if it does not consider the Government’s desired outcome.
“On the contrary, transparency about the consequences of the ‘off-the-shelf’ options that have been modelled will stimulate public debate, strengthen the Government’s negotiating hand, and improve the final deal that is reached between the UK and the EU.”
Government in chaos
On Tuesday Baker told MPs the government could not be expected to publish the analysis while negotiations with the EU are ongoing because it would risk “harming our negotiation position” and “the national interest.”
He also described the leaked version of the report as “an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union.”
However, a government spokesman told BI that they would not vote against publishing the advice.
“This is provisional advice, it hasn’t been signed off by ministers, it was leaked,” the spokesperson told BI.
“If the opposition wants to see it what we have said very clearly it is not the final analysis that is done and it doesn’t include the deal we are pushing for.
“But if the house wants to see it then we will abide by the opposition day motion… What is out there already is out there already, but the final analysis we will publish at the right time.”
Minister disciplined for raising concern about the report
The government spokesperson also confirmed that Dr Phillip Lee, a minister in the justice department, has been disciplined by Conservative whips for tweets he posted on Tuesday urging the government to reconsider the path it was taking with Brexit in light of the leaked report.
“It’s time for evidence, not dogma, to show the way. We must act for our country’s best interests, not ideology & populism, or history will judge us harshly. Our country deserves no less,” Lee MP said.
The next phase of Brexit has to be all about the evidence. We can’t just dismiss this and move on. If there is evidence to the contrary, we need to see and consider that too. https://t.co/A0MeP9BCJr. 1/3
— Dr Phillip Lee MP (@DrPhillipLeeMP) January 30, 2018
“He has been spoken to by the chief whip and reminded that it is best to express his views in public,” the government spokesperson said.