Government refusing to publish Brexit impact assessments so civil servants have 'safe space' for talks

Posted On: 
31st October 2017

The Government has refused to publish key details of a set of controversial Brexit impact assessments, claiming officials need a “safe space” to make policy.

Liam Fox and David Davis outside No 10
PA Images

The Brexit department responded to a Freedom of Information request from Labour MP Seema Malhotra, claiming publication of the 58 documents would undermine policy creation. 

“There is a strong public interest in policy-making associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality and conducted in a safe space to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private,” the department said in response to the request. 

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“In this case, releasing the commissioning document for this exercise, which is still a live policy issue, may undermine the effective formulation or development of policies which are key to our negotiating strategy.

“Disclosure would similarly set a precedent that would inhibit free and frank discussion in the future. Without the necessary safe space for unreserved instruction in commissioning briefs, the quality of the eventual advice from the respective exercise would be diminished and would in turn lead to poorer decision making.”

David Davis’s department added it would rather release the documents in an “organised and efficient manner” than through FoI.

Yesterday, the Government published a list of the sectors covered in the 58 documents but refused Ms Malhotra’s plea for more information. 

She said: “The Government’s reference to needing to conduct Brexit policy-making in a ‘safe place to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private’ seems to be more about keeping parliament and the public in the dark,” she said.

“Parliament is not here to give the government a blank cheque on Brexit, but to assist in achieving the best deal for our economy and society.”