Government finally hands over secret Brexit papers

Brexit Secretary David Davis

David Davis's Department for Exiting the EU has finally handed over to a parliamentary committee its secret papers on the economic impact of Brexit.

The handover of the documents to the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU, chaired by Labour MP Hilary Benn, came a day ahead of the deadline agreed by the Brexit Secretary.

The committee will meet tomorrow to decide whether to publish all or part of the documents, which cover the potential impact of Brexit on 58 sectors of the UK economy.

Mr Davis agreed to release the documents after Labour won a Commons vote on November 1 on a "humble address" to the Queen asking for what it termed the "impact assessments" to be provided to the committee.

Labour's motion was passed without a vote earlier this month after ministers indicated the Government would not oppose it.

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But there was confusion over whether it would force Mr Davis to release the papers, as Opposition Day motions are not normally binding on the Government.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said at the time that the arcane parliamentary procedure of a humble address used by Labour has "traditionally been regarded as binding or effective", and said he would be willing to consider an accusation of contempt if the Government failed to respond.

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Mr Davis confirmed in a letter to Mr Benn two days later that he was making arrangements to comply, but insisted that it was not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments existed in the form suggested by the motion.

Instead, he said that his department had drawn up a "wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum" which looked at different sectors' current trading arrangements and the possible alternatives following Brexit.

"This analysis ranges from the very high level overarching analysis to sometimes much more granular level analysis of certain product lines in specific sectors," he said at the time.

"Our analysis in this area is constantly evolving and being updated based on our regular discussions with industry and our negotiations with the EU."

In a written statement on November 7 to the Commons, he said it would take the department some time to compile this information into an accessible format for the committee but pledged that it would be handed over within three weeks.

The department stressed that ministers have a responsibility, endorsed by Parliament, not to release information that would undermine the UK's negotiating position.

A spokesman for the department said: "The Government has satisfied the motion, providing the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee with information covering 58 sectors of the economy.

"We have also shared the information with the Lords EU Committee.

"We have always been clear that our analysis does not exist in the form Parliament requested.

"We have taken time to bring together the analysis we do have in a way that meets Parliament's specific ask.

"Our overall programme of work is comprehensive, thorough and is continuously updated.

"This sectoral analysis is simply one part of it."

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