Threat of court action if government fails to release ‘50 secret studies’ on impacts of Brexit

Molly, who has been pressing for the release of ‘50 secret studies’ on the impacts of Brexit on the economy, is demanding the government disclose the documents or face legal action. Following several unsuccessful attempts to obtain the details of the studies, including one Freedom of Information request. Molly has teamed up with The Good Law Project to demand the government release the studies within 14 days [see note below]. In a letter to the Department for Exiting the European Union and HM Treasury they warn that failure to do so will result in the issue of judicial review proceedings before the High Court, which would seek to compel the government to release them.

This new challenge comes in the week that 120 cross-party MPs signed a letter to the government demanding the studies are released immediately.

Molly said:

“The European referendum was all about taking back control but how can our democratic representatives make decisions in our interests when the government is withholding vital information? It has been clear for some time that the attempt to keep the Brexit impact studies secret is more to cover the government’s blushes than to enable efficient law-making. The rule of law requires that MPs know what Brexit really means before they formally vote for our withdrawal.”

Jolyon Maugham QC believes that the government may well have a duty under common law to release the studies. Mr Maugham said:

“This is our Government, it must act in our interests, and we must be free to scrutinise it to ensure that it does. These studies will inform decisions which will have a profound impact on our futures. There is a clear legal and principled case to say that these studies should not be hidden from public view.”

The Good Law Project has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the costs of the judicial review proceedings.


Two classes of study are being sought: First, those mentioned by David Davis MP to the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU on 14 December last year: “our 57 studies cover 85% of the economy—everything except sectors that are not affected by international trade”. DExEU has repeatedly promised to publish the list of studies “shortly” but has not done so. And, second, a report prepared by HM Treasury comparing the predicted economic detriment of Brexit with the predicted economic benefits of alternative free trade agreements. The Good Law Project and Molly Scott Cato are being advised by Tim Pitt-Payne QC and Robin Hopkins each a leader in the field of information law. They are instructed by Constantine Partasides of Three Crowns LLP.