The threat of court action by an MEP and barrister still hangs over the government, despite a Commons backed opposition day motion last week which called for the release of studies into the impacts of Brexit on 58 sectors of the economy.
Lawyers representing Molly Jolyon Maugham QC have now written to both the Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the chancellor, Phillip Hammond, to reiterate the need for a ‘fully informed public and parliamentary debate about the terms of Brexit, and the importance of these documents to that debate.’ They have also warned that a failure to disclose the sectoral studies, as well as a report by the Treasury, to the public by Monday 13th November will result in judicial review proceedings to obtain the studies.
Molly and Jolyon Maugham also accuse the government of ‘procrastination and playing semantics’. In a letter from David Davis to Hilary Benn, the Chair of Exiting the EU Committee, Mr Davis says: ‘it will take time to collate and bring together this information in a way that is accessible and informative to the Committee’. Mr Davis also reiterates his belief that some of the information ‘should not find its way into the public domain’, suggesting the studies released to the Committee could be heavily redacted.
Commenting, Molly said:
“Passing papers along a few corridors so they land on a desk of a committee is simply not good enough. There is also the fear that the documents will be heavily redacted when they do, so members of parliament and the public will still be kept in the dark. Having spent months arguing about releasing the studies, Brexit Minister Steve Baker has now reduced the debate to farce by suggesting that the studies may not exist at all!
“The assurance from the government last week that the studies would be released has now been followed up with procrastination and playing semantics. David Davis has made clear he has no intention of releasing these studies anytime soon, and is fudging over the number and type of analyses carried out. This is totally unacceptable, and we continue with our threat of court action to ensure these studies, in their entirety, are made publicly available.”
Jolyon Maugham QC, said:
“There is very good evidence that the Treasury has produced an analysis comparing the gains from future free trade agreements with the economic costs of leaving the customs union.
“This is a live issue. The Government says we will leave the customs union, but Labour’s position is that we may well not. This question is vital to the future prosperity of the nation and debate must be informed by the best available evidence.
“I find it hard to see how our own modelling of the effects of that decision – modelling that could perfectly well be undertaken by our negotiating counterparties – could prejudice the result of the negotiations. I believe the Government’s real reason is that it wishes to avoid the political embarrassment of properly informed debate. That is not a good or acceptable reason for keeping this analysis secret.”
Molly Scott Cato and The Good Law Project are working together to demand the government make the studies into 58 sectors of the economy and the Treasury Report publicly available. A crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of judicial review proceedings achieved its target within 48 hours, raising almost £60,000 from over 2000 donors.
All letters from solicitors acting for Molly Scott Cato MEP and the Good Law Project to DExEU and the Treasury and responses to date can be seen here