Secret Brexit Impact Papers MUST Be Published By Government, Commons Decides

Speaker Bercow insists ministers should respond swiftly

Ministers are to be forced to publish secret papers on the impact of Brexit on the UK economy after a landmark Commons defeat for the Government.

Labour hailed a major “victory for Parliament and democracy” as MPs passed an Opposition Day motion demanding that the confidential documents be handed over to a select committee.

Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled that the vote was binding on ministers and insisted that they had to respond as soon as possible.

He said that ministers could find themselves in contempt of Parliament if they refused the expressed will of the Commons.

After hours of passionate debate, Brexit minister Steve Baker decided against putting the motion to a vote amid fears that Tory rebels were set to side with Labour to demand publication.

HuffPost UK understands that there is one huge document assessing the economic impact of Brexit, rather than scores of individual verdicts on various industries.

Faced with defeat, ministers were considering releasing the document with key sections blanked out or ‘redacted’, a prospect that could still happen with the approval of MPs.

Tory MP Anna Soubry said: “The implication is quite clear: there’s something in them that’s not to be disclosed because it might actually prick this golden bubble, this balloon of the promised land of Brexit.”

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer.
PA Wire/PA Images

On Monday the government published the list of 58 sectors that have been looked at, ranging from aerospace and aviation to tourism and legal services.

But it has argued that releasing them would undermine its negotiating position with the EU.

Labour used an archaic Parliamentary tactic, called ‘an Humble Address’, to force a binding vote to demand the hand-over of the confidential papers.

The motion stated that “an humble address be presented to Her Majesty” requiring that the reports “be laid before this House and that the impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the Committee on Exiting the European Union”.

After the motion was passed without opposition, Bercow stressed that ministers could not hide behind previous pledges on non-binding votes to wait up to 12 weeks to report back the Parliament.

Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Brexit Secretary David Davis.
PA Wire/PA Images

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “This is a victory for Parliament and for democracy.

“It’s completely unacceptable for the Tories to have wasted months avoiding responsible scrutiny and trying to keep the public in the dark. The reality is that it should not have taken an ancient Parliamentary procedure to get ministers to listen to common sense.

“As the Speaker has made clear, the Government cannot ignore tonight’s binding decision. David Davis must now respond to Parliament’s ruling and urgently set a date for when he will share these papers.”

During the debate, Tory MPs Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and even Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg called for the documents to be sent to the Brexit Select Committee.

Rees-Mogg said it is “a general waste of this House’s time to have motions on motherhood and apple pie...I have no doubt that this motion is, in all senses, binding.”

Anna Soubry.
Anna Soubry.
PA Archive/PA Images

Brexit negotiations are set to resume on 9 and 10 November with the UK seeking to make enough progress to persuade the EU to move talks onto future issues like trade.

In an impassioned speech Soubry told MPs: “We are not messing about here any more. This is grown up serious stuff. This is no longer some sort of debate on the fringes of politics.

“I’m not going to stand by and see the future of my children’s generation being trashed and ruined without any form of debate and disclosure as to the consequences.”

Lib Dem MP Vera Hobhouse told the Commons: “What began with democracy should not end with a government plot shrouded in secrecy.” The Brexit secretary “must be hiding bad news”, she added.


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