The UK government is hiding its Brexit plans by making firms sign secretive ‘gagging agreements’

Photograph : Rick Stevens/FIFA Fan Fest.
  • The government is reportedly making companies sign secretive non-disclosure agreements preventing them from publishing the impact of Brexit.
  • Numerous firms which operate Britain’s borders have agreed not to share information on how Brexit could impact trade.
  • The government has signed “many dozens” of secretive non-disclosure agreements with companies and industry groups, according to reports.
  • Labour MP Chuka Umunna described the report as a “shocking and very serious development.”

LONDON – The UK government has reportedly been asking companies and industry groups to sign secretive non-disclosure agreements over the impact of its Brexit plans on Britain’s borders.

The government has forced “many dozens” of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) into the consultation process with logistics companies which operate at Britain’s borders, according to Sky News.

The agreements mean that the firms cannot publicly comment on information shared with the government about the impact of different Brexit scenarios on the movement of goods coming in and out of the country.

Meg Hillier MP, the chair of the public accounts committee, told Sky News the activity is “extremely unusual” and “a sign of Government paranoia” over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The government has reportedly held a series of secret meetings through sub-committees of the Border Co-ordination Group, which was created to gather data on the goods coming in and out of the UK in its trade with the EU.

More recently, however, the meetings were reportedly used to ask various industry groups to examine how trade at Britain’s borders could be impacted by different Brexit scenarios. This includes a “no deal” outcome – which would unleash an array of tariff and non-tariff barriers and likely increase delays and checks at the border.

The NDAs which covered the meetings meant that industry groups and firms are prevented from sharing both their trade data and the government’s likely Brexit scenarios they were asked to model.

‘A shocking and very serious development’

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign, described the report as a “shocking and very serious development,” and called on the government to share the secret data with MPs.

“The Government is sharing its plans for Britain’s borders with companies, collecting data on the impact of their plans and then making those companies sign gagging agreements to withhold the information from Parliament and the British people,” he said.

“It is undemocratic and makes a complete mockery of Parliamentary sovereignty. MPs must be provided with this information.

“It is not acceptable for the Government to share facts about the consequences of Brexit with a few people in the industry but to conceal them from our elected representatives and the public.”