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Brexit: MPs will be shown secret economic analysis 'urgently' in government U-turn

Ministers throw in the towel after Tories joined demands for release - accepting inevitability of defeat

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 31 January 2018 17:48 GMT
Lorries queuing at Dover: A repeat is predicted under a 'no-deal' Brexit - which a leak of the analysis says would eat up 8% of GDP
Lorries queuing at Dover: A repeat is predicted under a 'no-deal' Brexit - which a leak of the analysis says would eat up 8% of GDP (Reuters)

MPs will be shown the secret analysis predicting major economic harm from Brexit as a “matter of urgency”, after the Government caved in over the controversy.

The document – concluding all three mooted exit options would leave Britain poorer – will be shown to the select committee scrutinizing withdrawal and all other MPs will be able to view it in “a confidential reading room”.

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, declined to set a strict deadline for release, while ordering ministers that the study must be “made available as a matter of urgency”.

Labour demanded a handover “by the end of the week” – arguing openness was the only way to ensure Theresa May’s withdrawal strategy is “driven by evidence, not ideology”.

“This is a victory for Parliament and for our country,” said Keir Starmer, the party’s Shadow Brexit Secretary,

“The Speaker has made clear that this decision should be implemented as a matter of urgency. Labour therefore expects ministers to hand these documents over by the end of the week. To not do so would obstruct the will of Parliament.”

The release will come despite the Prime Minister herself claiming, while in China, that to do so was “wrong” – and despite a minister warning it would be “harming the national interest”.

The Government threw in the towel by not opposing Labour’s motion, apparently accepting the inevitability of defeat after some Tories joined the demands for the secrecy to end.

Nicky Morgan, the former Education Secretary and now chairwoman of the Commons Treasury committee, said: “The document can hardly undermine the Government’s negotiating position if it does not consider the Government’s desired outcome.”

And Chris Leslie MP, a Labour supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said: “The Government are so used to staggering from defeat to humiliation about Brexit on a daily basis, that they are not even contesting key votes in Parliament.”

The defeat mirrored the order for David Davis to release 58 "impact assessments" for various economic sectors, although he later admitted they did not exist in that form.

The leak said the new analysis predicted a no-deal Brexit, leaving Britain trading with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms, would reduce growth by 8 per cent over 15 years.

Leaving with a Canada-style free trade agreement would see growth cut by 5 per cent, while staying inside the single market would reduce growth by 2 per cent.

The document also warned that the gains from free trade deals with other big countries would fail to make up for the losses - a boost of just 0.2 per cent over 15 years from a deal with the US, for example.

In the Commons, Brexit minister Robin Walker said: “We will provide the analysis to the select committee for Exiting the European Union and all members on a strictly confidential basis.

“This means we'll provide a hard copy of the analysis to the chair of the EU select committee and a confidential reading room will be available to all members and peers to see a copy of this analysis once those arrangements can be made.”

His colleague, Steve Baker, insisted the release as only being sanctioned because of “the poor reporting of the leak” – continuing to insist it was a partial and preliminary assessment.

“It does not constitute a meaningful commentary on the expected outcome of the negotiations,” he claimed.

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