Brexit negotiation details will be kept secret from Parliament, David Davis says

The minister for leaving the EU said MPs would not be told about things in advance

Jon Stone
Monday 12 September 2016 17:21
David Davis is in charge of leaving the European Union
David Davis is in charge of leaving the European Union

The Government will keep key details about Brexit negotiations secret from Parliament, the Cabinet minister in charge of leaving the European Union has warned.

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, told parliamentarians on Monday afternoon that full transparency would not be in the country’s best interests.

“Clearly there is a need for Parliament to be informed without giving away our negotiating position. I may not be able to tell you everything, even in private hearings,” he told the House of Lords EU select committee.

The Government has refused to so far give details about what Brexit would entail or even give a definitive answer about when negotiations for leaving the EU would begin. Theresa May and those around her have consistently said they will not “give a running commentary” on Brexit and that “Brexit means Brexit”.

During the hearing Mr Davis suggested that MPs and peers might only be told things after they had happened in negotiations.

“I can entirely see accountability after the event, that’s very clear. In advance, I don’t think it’s possible for parliamentarians to micro-manage the process and wouldn’t give us an optimum outcome for the country,” he said.

“Much of the confidentiality I’m talking about will be time-related. We can tell you something late but we can’t tell you in advance.”

He however suggested a House of Commons “Brexit Select Committee” could be set up to scrutinise the work of negotiators and boost accountability, and that he would appear before the House of Lords EU committee “within reason” to answer questions.

He added: “Before article 50 is triggered will be a rather frustrating time because we won’t be saying a lot. We’ll be saying a bit, laying out guidelines, but as the Prime Minister has said we won’t give a running commentary on it because that would just undermine our negotiating stance from the beginning. Afterwards I’d expect it to be more open process.”

Mr Davis was smacked down by Downing Street last week after he publicly suggested that Britain would probably leave the single market after it left the EU. A Number 10 spokesperson said his words, made at the dispatch box in the House of Commons, were “not policy” and “his opinion”.

That response by Downing Street was followed by a similar response to similar comments about the nature of Brexit by Liam Fox.

Mr Davis heads a newly created Department for Exiting the European Union, while Mr Fox heads the Department for International Trade.

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