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Government will publish leaked Brexit papers

 

The government has said it will not oppose a Labour motion calling for the release of a leaked Brexit analysis that showed that the economy would be significantly worse off in every modelled scenario, paving the way for the documents to be published.
Announcing the decision to release the reports, the junior Brexit minister Robin Walker said elements would be redacted if they could affect negotiations with the EU, and only MPs would be able see the studies in a confidential reading room.
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But the government came under pressure to release the documents immediately and to the public, with the cross-party Treasury committee of MPs writing to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, calling for this to happen.
The climbdown came as Downing Street said Phillip Lee, a junior justice minister, had been reprimanded for tweeting that if such studies showed the economy would be harmed by certain Brexit options then a change in policy should follow.
No such action has been taken against the Brexit minister Steve Baker, who said on Tuesday that economic forecasts by government officials were “always wrong”.
The Downing Street source said it was not yet known when the papers would be released, as it would depend on the time needed to redact confidential sections, and to make the necessary arrangements with the Brexit select committee.

The climbdown over the publication of the papers mirrors what happened last year when Labour sought and won an opposition day motion calling for the release of a wider set of Brexit analyses, which turned out later to be more straightforward sectoral assessments.
The subsequent reports, leaked to Buzzfeed, predict that the UK will end up economically worse off under three possible Brexit scenarios: a comprehensive free trade deal, single market access and no deal at all.
Ministers have dismissed the study as interim, and incomplete as it does not include the option of the sort of bespoke deal with the EU sought by Theresa May and her government, details of which have yet to be explained.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, secured another opposition day motion on Wednesday over these documents, demanding that the government publish them.
Responding to him in the House of Commons, Walker said: “Let me start by saying the government will not be opposing this motion today.”
However, he added, certain “negotiation-sensitive” parts would be redacted, and the remaining report would only be provided as a hard copy to the Brexit select committee on a “strictly confidential basis”, with MPs able to view it in a secure reading room.
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“A key part of this is for the government to be able to conduct internal thinking when it comes to preparing policy,” Walker said.
Following Walker’s comments the Treasury committee released a letter from its chair, the Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, to Davis, the Brexit secretary, saying the analysis should be released immediately.
“The document can hardly undermine the government’s negotiating position if it does not consider the government’s desired outcome,” Morgan wrote.
In tweets sent on Tuesday evening Lee, Tory MP for Bracknell since 2010 and a junior justice minister since 2016, said the next phase of Brexit “has to be all about the evidence”, linking to the Buzzfeed report.
He added: “But if these figures turn out to be anywhere near right, there would be a serious question over whether a government could legitimately lead a country along a path that the evidence and rational consideration indicate would be damaging.”
A Downing Street source said Lee had been reprimanded for expressing his opinions in public.
“Philip Lee will recognise that the analysis was initial and probably not worth commenting on,” the source said. “He has been spoken to by the chief whip and reminded that it is best to air his view in private.”
The source faced repeated questions from reporters on why Lee had been disciplined when no action had been taken against Baker.
His comments prompted an angry response from the head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, and Bob Kerslake, who ran the civil service from 2012 to 2015 and is now a crossbench peer.
Asked whether the lack of action against Baker meant his view was official government policy, the source said: “I will stick with what Steve Baker said.”