The UK government is refusing to publish Brexit impact assessments because it would breach their 'safe space'

British prime minister Theresa May. Photo: Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/ Getty Images.
  • Theresa May’s government is refusing to publish 58 Brexit impact assessments as it would breach their “safe space.”
  • The unpublished papers show how Brexit will impact 88% of the British economy.
  • Labour MP Seema Malhotra accuses the Brexit department of keeping the public and parliament in the dark.
  • Brexit Secretary David Davis will make a presentation to the cabinet on Tuesday morning which will include the case for “no deal.”

LONDON — The UK government is refusing to publish 58 Brexit impact assessments because it says it would breach “safe space” for policy-making.

The Department for Exiting the European Union denied Labour MP Seema Malhotra’s freedom of information request for the scope, terms of reference and state of completion of the assessments into how leaving the European Union will affect 58 sectors of the British economy.

The Brexit department 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.”

Malhotra, a member of the Brexit select committee, claimed that the impact studies cover 88% of the economy, which include everything from defence, higher education and tourism to nuclear, retail and construction and engineering.

Brexit secretary David Davis sent a list of the sectors covered to the House of Lords European Union Select Committee ahead of his appearance in front of it this afternoon.

DExEU continued: “In this case, releasing the commissioning document for this exercise, which is still a live policy issue, may undermine the effective formulation or development of policies which are key to our negotiating strategy.

“Disclosure would similarly set a precedent that would inhibit free and frank discussion in the future. 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.”

Malhotra said the government’s lack of transparency around Brexit, and that the Brexit department was not engaging a “diverse range of voices” in order to make the best decisions.

She said: “The Government’s reference to needing to conduct Brexit policy making in a “safe place to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private” seems to be more about keeping Parliament and the public in the dark.

“Parliament is not here to give the Government a blank cheque on Brexit but to assist in achieving the best deal for our economy and society.”

Halloween presentation

Davis will give a detailed presentation on the state of Brexit to the cabinet on Tuesday morning, which will include an assessment of a “no deal” scenario alongside pushing Theresa May’s hopes for an agreement with the EU.

The prime minister is hoping that negotiations between Britain and the EU will reach “sufficient progress” between now and the European Council’s December meeting, in order that talks will be allowed to advance onto discussions of a future relationship, specifically trade arrangements.

No further rounds of talks have yet been scheduled between Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, but the EU insists the two sides must make progress on the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland before future trade relations can be discussed.

Barnier hosted prominent British pro-EU campaigners, including veteran Conservative MP Ken Clarke, former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Labour peer Lord Adonis on Monday, which led some to accuse the group of undermining Brexit negotiations.

A European Commission spokesman said Barnier’s door was “always open” and played down claims of “shadow negotiation.” However, May’s former chief-of-staff Nick Timothy said the trip “undermines Britain’s negotiating position.”

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