UK Politics

Brexit studies details 'will be published'

Houses of Parliament and EU flag Image copyright EPA

The government has said it will release information from Brexit impact studies, after Labour won a vote effectively forcing their hand.

Ministers had argued that releasing the economic impact studies would undermine their Brexit negotiating position.

But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom agreed that Wednesday's vote was "binding" and told MPs: "The information will be forthcoming."

Brexit Secretary David Davis said ministers would be "as open as we can".

He said he was already talking to Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Committee for Exiting the European Union, about "how we handle the confidentiality of the documentation we'll hand over".

The government has been under pressure to release the studies, which show the potential impact of leaving the EU on 58 economic sectors.

On Monday it published the list of sectors that have been looked at, ranging from aerospace and aviation to tourism and legal services. But it had argued that releasing them would undermine its negotiating position.

But on Wednesday Labour used an arcane parliamentary procedure to get the documents released.

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It involved tabling a motion 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".

The government chose not to oppose the motion and it was not initially clear whether it would be binding.

Speaker John Bercow told MPs on Wednesday that this type of motion had "traditionally been regarded as binding or effective" and made clear that the government should respond quickly to the vote.

Brexit Secretary Mr Davis told MPs that discussions were under way with Mr Benn about releasing the the documents but added: "These documents are not some sort of grand plan, they're data about the regulations and the markets of individual sectors which inform our negotiation.

"Of course we will be as open as we can be with the select committee, I fully intend to."

'Conflicting obligation'

In a letter to Mr Davis, Mr Benn asked him to confirm in writing what arrangements he was making to provide his committee with the impact assessments.

He added that he hoped it would be done "much sooner" than the 12 weeks the government had previously indicated it would take to respond to opposition day debate motions.

Earlier Commons Leader Ms Leadsom was asked when the studies would be released. She replied: "It is absolutely accepted that the motion passed by the House yesterday is binding and that the information will be forthcoming.

"But, as I think as has been made very clear, it is the case that it is difficult to balance the conflicting obligation to protect the public interest through not disclosing information that could harm the national interest and the public interest whilst at the same time ensuring that the resolution of the House passed yesterday is adhered to."

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