The Tory Minister who said the Government’s Brexit policy should be driven by “evidence not dogma” has been disciplined by the party – but will stay in his job
Justice Minister Philip Lee took to Twitter on Tuesday night to question Theresa May’s approach to Brexit after leaked impact studies showed the UK would suffer an economic hit under a range of trading scenarios outside the EU.
Lee, who backed Remain in the referendum, said the leaked document raised “a serious question” over whether the Government could “legitimately” pursue a policy which would damage the country.
A Downing Street spokesman said today: “He has been spoken to by the Chief Whip and been reminded it’s best to air views in private.”
When asked if it was going to be sacked, the spokesman said: “No.”
When asked if he was being disciplined for saying Government policy should be led by “evidence, not dogma” the spokesman said: “He was asked to air views in private in future.”
While Lee has been hauled in front of the whips for a dressing down, a minister who claimed all government economic forecasts are “always wrong” has escaped any disciplinary action.
Brexit Minister Steve Baker told MPs on Tuesday: “I am not able to name an accurate forecast and I think they are always wrong and wrong for good reasons.”
He did, however, go on to claim that the leaked forecast predicted economic growth in every scenario.
When asked if the fact Baker had escaped censure means it is now Government policy that all civil service advice is “always wrong”, the Downing Street spokesman said: “I will stick with what Steve Baker said.”
The document, leaked to BuzzFeed News, showed even if the UK is able to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement – as Theresa May hopes – it estimated growth would be down 5% over the next 15 years.
Ahead of her trip to China, May told her Cabinet the report was initial work which did not analyse the bespoke deal she sought with the EU.
On her plane to the Far East, she told reporters that publishing the analysis, which has not been completed, “might prejudice our negotiating position.”
However, a Downing Street spokesman confirmed the Government would not block a move by Labour in the Commons this afternoon to have the full document handed over to MPs.
When asked why, if May believes publishing the analysis was wrong she was not instructing her MPs to vote down Labour’s motion, the Downing Street spokesman said: “We’re not participating in the division.”