MPs pass Labour motion calling on Government to release Brexit impact studies

Posted On: 
1st November 2017

Ministers are under pressure to publish nearly 60 studies on the impact of Brexit after the Commons unanimously backed a Labour bid to have them released.

The Government refused to vote against Labour's motion.
Credit: 
PA Images

In another sign of Theresa May's weakening authority, the Conservatives decided not to risk losing a vote by abstaining on an opposition motion demanding the impact assessment reports be handed over to the cross-party Brexit Committee.

Commons Speaker John Bercow told MPs he regarded the motion as "binding" and that he would "expect" the Government to now release the documents.

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The Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary David Davis have both previously insisted that the 58 reports could not be made public because they could weaken the UK's position in the negotiations with the EU.

Brexit minister Robin Walker had earlier said the Government would "respond appropriately" if the motion was passed - but stopped short of saying that meant the documents would be released in full.

It has been suggested that ministers are prepared to publish the reports, but with large sections redacted so as not to hamper the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the result was "a victory for parliament and for democracy".

He said: "Labour has been absolutely clear since the referendum that ministers could not withhold vital information from parliament about the impact of Brexit on jobs and the economy.

"It’s completely unacceptable for the Tories to have wasted months avoiding responsible scrutiny and trying to keep the public in the dark. The reality is that it should not have taken an ancient Parliamentary procedure to get ministers to listen to common sense.

"As the Speaker has made clear, the Government cannot ignore tonight's binding decision. David Davis must now respond to parliament’s ruling and urgently set a date for when he will share these papers."

SNP Brexit spokesman Peter Grant said: "The documents outlining the impact of a Tory Brexit must be published as fully as possible. The UK government cannot pick and choose what it wants to reveal about just how bad this is going to be for Scotland – and for other nations, regions and businesses across the UK.

"The UK government has spent the entirety of this debate attempting to conceal from MPs, the public, businesses and the devolved administrations, the impact of its plans to leave the EU.

"We know fine well that if the impact assessments had shown a sliver of benefit then the UK government would have trumpeted it from the rooftops of Whitehall. However, we know that’s not the case.

"Today’s debate at Westminster was an utter shambles – and clearly the Tories are in a total panic about these secret papers."

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "As the minister made clear during the debate, we take all parliamentary votes seriously and recognise 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."