Government must release Yellowhammer no-deal Brexit documents, MPs demand

PUBLISHED: 19:32 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:01 09 September 2019

Speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire.

Speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire.

MPs have voted to demand the government correspondence surrounding the prime minister's plan to prorogue parliament and the Yellowhammer documents that reveal the risks of a no-deal Brexit.

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The Commons voted by 311 to 302 votes - leading the government to its fifth defeat in a week.

It follows a motion tabled by former Tory MP Dominic Grieve, using a device known as a humble address, which follows the same mechanisms as when the opposition tried to get the government to publish Geoffrey Cox's legal advice under Theresa May.

The motion demands all written and electronic communications surrounding Boris Johnson's plan to prorogue parliament is published before Thursday 12th September.

That includes "messaging services including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook messenger, private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted, text messaging and iMessage and the use of both official and unofficial mobile phones."

The documents on prorogation are asked from advisers and officials including Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cumming, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain and Beatrice Thompson.

MPs have also requested that all Operation Yellowhammer documentation is made publicly available.

Last week the Financial Times reported the government had u-turned on a decision to publish a "watered down" version of the documentation after ministers decided that the findings would still alarm the public.

Presenting his motion Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the Commons: "The House is about to be prorogued for five weeks, two weeks after we return is the anticipated date on which we are going to leave the European Union.

"There is much which is left undebated and, in particular, we are not going to have an opportunity to ask necessary questions of the government both in relation to its own prepared documents under Yellowhammer, which it has prepared for its own use in relation to the risks of a no deal.

MORE: Dominic Grieve skewers Boris Johnson with the perfect comeback to 'girly swot'

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"And, in addition to that, we are not going to have the opportunity to ask what I think are the necessary and unfortunately searching questions about the Government's motives in proroguing this House and the potential difference between what they have said in public in this matter and what the evidence suggests is the reality."

In response attorney general Geoffrey Cox asked what legal right the government would have to require its employees to "give up private email accounts and personal mobiles".

He said if there is no legal right, the humble address may not be enforceable.

Grieve, however pointed out that "these are government employees and in the course of their work it is their duty to observe the civil service code and to comply with its requirements".

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said the vote was yet "another humiliating defeat for Boris Johnson."

"Parliament will not let him and his government get away with keeping the public in the dark over Brexit.

"The government is well aware of the damage a no-deal Brexit would cause, and has actively been trying to hide it.

"But sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the government now has no choice but to show people the pain and suffering that will be caused by its flagship policy."

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