UK Politics

Ministers agree to show MPs the leaked Brexit report

Brexit minister Robin Walker
Image caption Brexit minister Robin Walker made the announcement in Parliament

Leaked studies on the economic impact of Brexit will be made available to MPs to read, ministers have said.

No 10 said it would allow MPs and peers to see the report on a confidential basis after a Commons debate.

Ministers decided not to oppose a Labour motion urging its publication, amid signs they would lose the vote.

The leaked study suggests that in three different scenarios the UK economy would grow more slowly than it would if it stayed in the European Union

The government had previously argued that the document's immediate publication could damage UK negotiations with the EU.

Theresa May earlier told reporters en route to China, where she is on a trade mission, that making the analysis public before it was fully completed would be "wrong".

But with the government facing potential defeat in the vote on Wednesday afternoon, Brexit minister Robin Walker told MPs a copy of the report would be given to Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Brexit committee.

He added: "And a confidential reading room can be provided for other MPs and peers a copy of this analysis to view the material on a confidential basis. This will happen only when arrangements can be made."

The minister did not clearly specify a timeframe on when these arrangements can be made.

Labour have called for the report to be released since details of its existence first emerged in a Buzzfeed article on Monday. Several Tories also said the material should be made public.

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke, a leading supporter of a soft Brexit in which the UK maintains existing links with the EU, said there was a "rather curious cult of secrecy" around the government's approach to the issue.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sir Keir Starmer says ministers cannot sideline Parliament to hide their party's "deep divisions"

"A leak is a very serious matter and I deplore leaks when documents are revealed whose contents compromise the national interest, or are loaded with party political or other significance," he said.

"But an objective analysis of the economic consequences of various options which the government is at the moment looking at and considering, it's impossible to see how that compromises the national interest.

"A properly open government should make that sort of information freely available to all those, including MPs, with a legitimate interest in the subject."

Tory MP Anna Soubry suggested it was a "farce" for the document to be released confidentially for only a few hundred people to see when it was likely to end up all over the internet.

She said ministers must get a grip on the EU negotiations, warning of "a collective outbreak in the government of a form of madness".

Speaking before the government concession was announced, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Parliament was entitled to know the likely impact of the government's approach and to hold it to account.

"What we need now from the government is clarity about when the documents will be handed over and a guarantee they will be so in an unedited and unredacted form," he said.

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