Brexit: Under The Cover Of Darkness

03/10/2017 15:57 BST | Updated 03/10/2017 15:57 BST
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In the referendum campaign Michael Gove uttered his now infamous words that "people in this country have had enough of experts", but inside the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), however this is not the case. They have now conducted and completed over 50 sectoral studies on the impact of Brexit, but it is far from certain that government policy is indeed following the evidence.

The government have also refused to publically publish the list after I had tabled an FOI asking them to be made available. It beggars belief.

This is yet another sign of the government desperate to avoid scrutiny and seeking to bypass Parliament and the public. Publishing both the list of sectors and the results of the studies is clearly in the public interest. We were promised to take back control, but at every turn the Government have sought to act under the cover of darkness when it comes to addressing costs as well as the potential benefits of leaving the EU.

Whether you voted leave or remain, no-one will want a cliff-edge Brexit - or to say "if only we had known; if only someone had told us we could have been better prepared." Already businesses are saying that to me - that if they had known about the Government's intentions for example for a transition period, they would have planned accordingly and more effectively.

A mature evidence led debate driven by the goals of a stable jobs-first Brexit is what business and citizens now need and deserve. This is about our economy and British people's jobs, about the rights of EU citizens and their security in our society, it is about the subsidies we gain from EU bodies in farming, R&D and infrastructure and how we go about planning for change, as well as replacing and replenishing them.

We must know what are the potential consequences and changes to the biggest constitutional question we have faced since 1945. The FOI response could not even list which sectors have been specifically examined despite a public promise by a Minister to release this information. The scope could be less than we were promised and with no answers or analysis of the potential cliff-edge of a no deal. It will feed speculation that the government has something to hide.

The one study that has leaked cited that Brexit could cause a "shortage of more than 40,000 nurses by 2026". This is now not about sides but a nation planning together for a big change ahead. It is about leadership, clarity and responsibility.

DExEU's rejection suggested that the "release of this information could jeopardise the safe space necessary for optimal policy development", yet most of the Cabinet seem to have chosen the front pages of national newspapers as their safe space to outline their vision. The EU will clearly have their own analysis. Even if some information cannot be released for good reason, publishing the programme of work being undertaken is surely in the public interest. What's clear is that it may not be in May's political interest. But it shouldn't be the country that then pays the price.

This week reports show us falling to the bottom of the G7 league table in terms of economic growth. We cannot be complacent and we cannot take risks.

We are lagging behind in the timetable for progressing our negotiations and unable to move to phase two of discussing a trade deal with the 27 member's states and Michel Barnier due to David Davis and his team's reluctance to accept what the Labour party has argued for - that we need a transitional deal. This shift towards pragmatism is welcome but we now need much more. To coin a phrase - the clock is ticking - and it's not just the Government but the country that needs to plan for Brexit.

The government should be open with the British people and make public the information they have to allow for a full and factual debate that covers both the risks and benefits of leaving the European Union and informs the debate about our priorities for Brexit negotiations. It is their responsibility and duty to do so.