Keir Starmer: May's refusal to publish Brexit impact papers is a 'mockery'

  • Sir Keir Starmer tells BI that the government is “making a mockery” of Brexit process.
  • Theresa May’s government is refusing to publish research into how Brexit could impact 58 key British sectors.
  • Labour’s shadow Brexit team is confident that enough Tory MPs will rebel against May to force her to publish the impact assessments.

LONDON — Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer has accused the government of making a “mockery” of the Brexit process ahead of a Commons vote on whether Theresa May should publish a series of Brexit impact papers.

Speaking to Business Insider at an event hosted by My Life My Say on Wednesday morning, the shadow Brexit Secretary said that the government’s refusal to publish research into how Brexit could affect 58 British sectors is “very difficult to justify” and an affront to “transparency and accountability.”

Theresa May’s government is refusing to publish Brexit impact assessments because it says it would breach a “safe space” for Brexit policy-making. The 58 sectors in question account for around 88% of the British economy.

Speaking to BI this morning, Starmer said: “I think it makes a mockery of their [the government’s] claim that they want as much transparency and accountability as possible.

“Obviously, we’ve got to be careful not to publish anything that would undermine our negotiating position. But at the moment, the government’s position is a complete lockdown. Not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one word of any of these assessments.”

He added: “Until two days ago, they weren’t even prepared to publish the list of sectors they have looked at. It’s very difficult to justify that.”

Labour will on Wednesday evening hold a Commons vote on whether the government should publish the impact papers, and the shadow Brexit team believes it has identified an archaic law making the outcome of the vote binding.

The shadow Brexit team is confident that at least 5 Conservative MPs will back Labour and other opposition MPs in the vote, with possible government rebels being Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

MPs across the House suspect that the unpublished papers will reveal the potentially huge damage Brexit could inflict on some of the country’s most vital sectors.

Labour’s current Brexit policy is to stay both in the single market and customs until the end of a transition period lasting around two-years.

Starmer insisted that this remained the party’s position, but hinted that the impact papers may lead the party to re-think elements of its Brexit policy.

“Our position on the single market and customs union is very clear,” the Labour MP explained.

“We are arguing very strongly for transitional arrangements where we’d be in the single market and customs union. And that will take us through to 2021 with a settled position in any event. After that, what we strongly argue for is retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union, and that’s the most important thing.

“Obviously, we are pressing the government hard for these assessments, and if we get them it will inform all of us in the debate that we are having. But the most important thing is if we get them,” he added.

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