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This is why we’re taking David Davis to court over Brexit

The Brexit Secretary and the Treasury have repeatedly refused to release vital studies into the economic effects of Brexit into the public domain – so we're taking action

Molly Scott Cato
Saturday 14 October 2017 12:47 BST
The Department for Exiting the EU is resisting calls to publish findings on the predicted damage of leaving the EU
The Department for Exiting the EU is resisting calls to publish findings on the predicted damage of leaving the EU (Reuters)

There have been letters, Freedom of Information requests, Parliamentary questions and, earlier this week, a letter signed by 120 cross-party MPs – all demanding that the government release studies they are sitting on about the economic impacts of Brexit.

But David Davis has remained bullish, refusing to publish the findings.

So, I have teamed up with Jolyon Maugham QC, a barrister and director of the The Good Law Project, to demand the Government release these studies within 14 days or face legal action. If the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) and the Treasury fail to do so, we will issue judicial review proceedings before the High Court, which would seek to compel the Government to release them.

The form this challenge takes has been recognised by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. While the outcome cannot be predicted with certainty, we have the benefit of advice and representation from experts in the field of information law.

We are after two classes of study. First, those mentioned by David Davis MP to the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU on 14 December last year, when he acknowledged that there were 57 studies covering 85 per cent of the economy: everything except sectors not affected by international trade. DExEU has repeatedly promised to publish the list of studies “shortly” – but has never done so.

Secondly, we want details of a report prepared by the Treasury comparing the predicted economic damage of Brexit with the potential economic benefits of alternative free-trade agreements.

Jean-Claude Juncker: Brexit will take longer than initially thought

We need to know whether anything has changed since 2013 when the coalition government carried out an extensive analysis into our relationship with the EU. Those studies, known as the Balance of Competences, concluded that membership of the single market resulted in the GDP of both the EU and UK being “appreciably greater than they otherwise would be” and that “integration has brought … appreciable economic benefits”.

My Green Party colleague, Caroline Lucas MP, asked a parliamentary question on whether the latest impact studies have reached different conclusions to the analysis carried out by the government back in 2013. The government refused to answer, again arguing that to publish anything would undermine the UK’s ability to negotiate the best deal for the UK.

Taking back control was meant to be about achieving greater control over decision making, not a power grab by a small elite intent on deliberately leaving the rest of us in the dark about the future of our own country. It is time for the Government to come clean and let everyone see exactly what the likely impacts of Brexit on our economy will be. We cannot have a real public debate about the terms of our withdrawal from the EU without knowing the full facts.

Now a no-deal Brexit seems a serious possibility, we could end up staying in the EU after all

Neither can our democratic representatives be expected to make decisions in our best interests while vital information is withheld.

And there can be no doubting the public appetite for these studies to be released. A crowdfunding campaign launched yesterday to fund the costs of the judicial review proceedings has raised over £40,000 in less than 24 hours: well on course to raise the funds needed to take the case to a conclusion in the High Court.

Rather than continuing to feed people fanciful nonsense about life outside the EU, we deserve the truth. Communities, businesses and public services need confidence in our long-term planning, which can only be achieved through open, transparent decision-making.

So David Davis, it’s probably best you don’t spare us your blushes on revealing your impact studies – because court action might just leave you seeing red.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West, and Green Party speaker on Brexit

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