MPs accuse government of "gross negligence" for failing to publish Article 50 contingency plan

Posted On: 
15th December 2016

MPs have accused ministers of "gross negligence" for refusing to answer questions about its contingency planning in case the UK fails to secure a deal with the EU within the Article 50 period. 

The Government has promised to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017
PA Images

FCO minister Sir Alan Duncan said the Government was “not currently in a position” to give evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on that subject.

But the committee reacted angrily, pointing out there was “every possibility” that the two year period prescribed by Article 50 for negotiations could elapse without an agreement in place.

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In a letter to committee chairman Tory MP Crispin Blunt, Sir Alan said the committee’s inquiries were “of high importance” to his department, but added: "HMG’s efforts will be focused on getting the best deal possible for the UK in the Article 50 negotiations with the EU. Since those negotiations are not yet underway, the Government is not currently in a position to provide written evidence to the Committee.

“I hope you appreciate our position and that this is not in any way meant to show any lack of respect for the Committee.”

Mr Blunt responded in writing by saying the minister’s reasoning was not “clear or convincing”.

The committee criticised the Government in a previous report for failing to instruct the FCO to prepare for the possibility of a Leave vote in the EU referendum – and warned that a refusal to broach the potential for no deal during Article 50 would be “worse”.

“If the Government did no preparatory work for the eventuality we are examining, it would be at least as negligent as Mr Cameron’s Government,” Mr Blunt said.

“It is hard to believe, however, that the Government is not considering the legal and technical issues and consequences of leaving the EU with no withdrawal agreement in place.

“The Government owes its analysis not just to Parliament, but to the wider public: there is a strong public interest in reducing uncertainty as far as possible, not least for businesses making investment decisions in the UK.”