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- A Whitehall insider has said that the release of the Brexit impact papers resembles a whitewash.
- Brexit Secretary David Davis under fire after his department withholds information in documents given to the Brexit select committee.
- Davis could be held in contempt of Parliament over not complying with a binding parliamentary vote.
LONDON – The release of the secret Brexit impact reports on Tuesday, which caused Conservative MPs to attack the government, has the signs of a “whitewash” according to a senior source.
The Whitehall insider, who had seen the documents, told The Times newspaper that the conclusions in the reports “just glossed over the problems, were totally inadequate or misleading,” and when asked whether it was a whitewash, said “yes.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis gave the Brexit select committee 850 pages of documents in two folders which gave details on the economic effects of leaving the European Union on 58 sectors of the economy after he was forced to do so by a binding parliamentary vote.
However, key details in the reports were not passed to the committee, which led to Conservative MP Phillip Hollobone to say the government were “skating on very thin parliamentary ice.”
Pro-Brexit Conservative MP and member of the select committee Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs: “If the government hadn’t wanted to publish the documents it should have voted against or amended the motion.”
He added: “It is not at the discretion of the government to decide what to take out – it is at the discretion of the select committee.”
Speaker John Bercow warned Davis and his fellow Brexit ministers that they could be found in contempt of parliament for not giving the full documents to MPs.
Bercow said: “No other engagement is more important than respecting the house… if a further representation alleging contempt is made to me I will consider it very promptly and come back to the house.
“I hope the house knows me well enough to know I will do my duty.”
He reminded MPs that he ruled the “very important” original motion to be binding, adding “that remains a fact.”
The source said that the “sector overviews” gave a good account of the impact of the EU on each part of the economy, but then “rushed very hastily to a conclusion,” including one example which was just eight lines long.
They said: “Normally you see the conclusions drawing on remarks through the report, but these didn’t even begin to do that. Two of the conclusions did not address the comments recorded in the analysis.
“The conclusions just glossed over the problems were totally inadequate or misleading. They said that things would more or less be all right when the warnings in the rest of the report suggested grounds for concern.”
Parliament voted to force the Department for Exiting the EU to release the papers to the select committee following a “humble address” motion was put forward by Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
The government did not vote against the motion, allowing it to be passed, which bound DExEU to release the documents. Sources told The Times that the government did not vote against it because it was shorn of the 10 DUP MPs that hand it a majority in the House of Commons, as they had been allowed to go home to Northern Ireland.