UK government under pressure to publish Brexit papers

Pro-EU campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, 17 October 2017. [Neil Hall/EPA]

The British government came under pressure on Wednesday (1 November) to publish papers detailing the potential impact of Brexit, after MPs appealed to a rare parliamentary power.

The opposition Labour party tabled the “humble address” motion in which they called for the government to publish its assessment of 58 sectors, including tourism and nuclear.

London’s Brexit department has so far refused to make their findings public, claiming that doing so could harm its negotiating position as talks continue with Brussels on the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Labour’s parliamentary motion was approved unopposed by the ruling Conservatives on Wednesday evening.

UK sets date for parliamentary showdown on Withdrawal bill

The British government said on Thursday (26 October) its key piece of Brexit legislation would be debated in parliament on 14 and 15 November, the next stage in what is expected to be a tortuous lawmaking process that will test Prime Minister Theresa May’s authority.

The Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, said such motions have “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective” and suggested he expected a response from the government within days.

A spokeswoman for the Brexit department said they recognised that parliament “does have rights relating to the publication of documents”.

“Ministers also have a clear obligation not to disclose information when doing so would not be in the public interest. We will reflect on the implications of the vote and respond in due course,” she said.

Labour MP Peter Kyle said it would be “scandalous” if the government were to withhold the papers.

“It is time that they release these impact assessments in full so that parliament, and most importantly the public, can see for themselves what the impact of a hard Brexit will be on our economy and on people’s jobs and businesses.

“Simply releasing redacted documents covered in black marker pen won’t be good enough,” he said in a statement released by the pro-EU Open Britain campaign.

The opposition Liberal Democrats also warned the government that the impact statements must be published in their entirety.

“Ministers need to publish these reports in full, not subject them to a Whitehall whitewash.

“This has nothing do with Britain’s negotiating position, and everything to do with the government trying to spare its own blushes,” said party spokesman Tom Brake.

Goldman CEO has high hopes for London HQ post-Brexit, despite uncertainty

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein expects to fill the firm’s new European headquarters which is currently under construction in London, but said Britain’s exit from the European Union left much outside the bank’s control.

Britain returns to the negotiating table next week, with talks in Brussels scheduled for 9 and 10 November, the Brexit ministry said on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Trade Minister Liam Fox warned that the longer it takes for Britain and the European Union to start negotiations on their future relationship after Brexit, the higher the chance of a no deal scenario.

“I think it’s unreasonable (not to move the Brexit talks forward) given the business interests across the European Union and given the interests of international investors,” Fox told a committee of lawmakers.

“The trouble is that the later these discussions begin, the higher the chance of not reaching a deal on time become.”