Government turmoil as minister says EU analysis papers were released to 'undermine Brexit'

Posted On: 
30th January 2018

A minister has accused government officials of releasing top secret analysis of the impact of leaving the European Union in an attempt to "undermine" Brexit.

Steve Baker addressing the Commons today
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Steve Baker also told MPs that the damning projections of the effects of Brexit, revealed by Buzzfeed last night, would not be published in full while negotiations with negotiations with Brussels were ongoing.

The analysis estimates that even if the Government opted to stay in the single market and customs union, there would be a 2% hit to growth over a 15-year period. 

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A comprehensive free trade agreement would result in a 5% drop in growth over the same period, the papers said, while leaving the EU without a deal would lead to GDP being 8% smaller than would otherwise be the case.

After being hauled before MPs, Mr Baker took a swipe at Cabinet Office officials responsible for the work, which he suggested had been leaked for political reasons.

He said: “It is an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union. It has not been led by my department. It is not yet anywhere near approved by ministers. Even the ministerial team in my department has only just consulted on this paper in recent days, and we have made it clear that it requires significant further work."

Astonishingly, Mr Baker also admitted that he had only learned of the contents of the analysis in media reports this morning.

MPs across the House rounded on Mr Baker over his insistence that the work would not be released immediately, with Tory Brexit splits once again on display.

Tory grandee Ken Clarke said: “The Government should feel itself under a duty to have the best informed debate in this House and in the country of the possible consequences of likely scenarios now, whilst the government is deciding what its ultimate policy is going to be.  

And Conservative backbencher Antoinette Sandbach added: “I take exception to being told that it’s not in the national interest for me to see the report that allows me to best represent my constituents.”

Labour’s Chris Leslie said: “For the government not to publish this is deeply irresponsible and dishonest. This is a cover-up, Mr Speaker, pure and simple and it stinks.”

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer dismissed Mr Baker’s response as “not good enough” and said Labour would attempt to force the Government to publish the work.  

Earlier, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister noted media coverage of a report purporting to show the economic impact of Britain leaving the EU.

“The Prime Minister said this was initial work, not approved by minister, which only considers off the shelf scenarios.

“No analysis was made of the bespoke arrangement we seek as a matter of government policy."

LETTER

Meanwhile, anti-Brexit Tories were among 47 MPs who signed a letter demanding that the Brexit analysis papers be published immediately.

Anna Soubry put her name to the demand alongside colleagues Ken Clarke and Antoinette Sandbach.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, of the pro-EU group Open Britain, said: "After last night’s revelations, we need answers and clarity from the Government. Instead, the Brextremist minister Steve Baker has just insulted MPs with a series of non-answers, obfuscations and confused pronouncements in the House of Commons.

"As a result of this unacceptable attempt to conceal vital information from Parliament and the public, we are writing to demand an urgent explanation from the Secretary of State. 

"The impact of Brexit is a matter of interest to every person in this country. Any taxpayer-funded analysis produced by the Government should therefore be published in full and without delay."