Government u-turn over ploy to hide Brexit damage

by Luke Lythgoe | 31.01.2018

The government deployed arch-Brexiter Steve Baker yesterday to bat away suggestions it should publish leaked official analysis showing there is no good Brexit scenario. Today, in a victory for democracy, it pulled yet another u-turn and promised to show the analysis to MPs and the Commons’ Brexit committee. Baker’s defiant argument was blasted apart by Labour’s Keir Starmer, with even some Tory ministers calling for the document to be released.

The shadow Brexit secretary used an arcane parliamentary process known as a “humble address” to force the government’s hand on the issue. During today’s debate on the motion he tore through the three key points Baker used against publication yesterday.

First, the junior Brexit minister suggested the analysis was no good anyway because such economic forecasts have “proved to be wrong in the wake of the referendum”. Starmer suggested Baker might instead take the approach suggested in a tweet by his Tory colleague, junior justice minister Phillip Lee, that it was important to consider evidence contrary to the government’s pro-Brexit line.

Lee was reprimanded by the Tory chief whip for his tweets. He should actually have been congratulated for pushing for an honest Brexit.

Second, Baker said the report was not complete and “requires significant further work”. And yet, Starmer pointed out, it was already being shared with government ministers. Why not MPs, whose job it is to hold those ministers to account – ideally with all the facts at their fingertips?

Third, Starmer addressed Baker’s argument that leaking the analysis was “an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union”. Labour’s Brexit frontman accepted there might be a case for keeping some parts of the study secret, but said there was a difference between information which was damaging and merely embarrassing.

The government’s retreat today over sharing the analysis with MPs – though still accompanied by requests not to make the document public – is humiliating for the prime minister. Only a few hours before the u-turn, as she headed off to lead a trade delegation in China, flip-flop queen May said she would only release the analysis “when the time comes for parliament to vote on the final deal”.

But there’s pressure on Labour too. As Gaby Hinsliff has argued in the Guardian, now we have evidence that all forms of Brexit will make ordinary people poorer in most sectors and across every region of the UK, Labour can no longer hide behind a vague Brexit policy. It’s time to take a decisive stand rather than just “hide behind Theresa May, saying as little as possible about Brexit and hoping voters blame the Tories for everything that goes wrong.”

For pro-Europeans this parliamentary fallout is good news. Although economic forecasts showing a painful Brexit have proven ineffectual in the past, the secretive conduct of a government hell-bent on pushing Brexit through at any cost should send alarm bells ringing. This bid to keep the public in the dark shows why voters should have the final say on Brexit.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

8 Responses to “Government u-turn over ploy to hide Brexit damage”

  • Oh dear, what a calamity! Government’s own analysis shows that all three types of Brexit available will damage the economy and make ordinary people poorer in most sectors and across every region of the UK. Perhaps, at this juncture the government should eat humble pie, admit that they can’t achieve the Brexit promises. Then go back to the EU and ask if the UK can stay in.

  • Calamity is a good word used by Simon but I think a lot of people would use it differently in the context of the following.

    All politicians should be elected to serve the population of the country in a neutral, objective, assured, thoughtful, intelligent, and professional manner for the betterment of society, for the improvement of public services, and for setting the economy on an even keel for greater prosperity.

    Instead, this mindless, selfish, dishonest, boorish, and disingenuous cabal of Brexit politicians are willingly obfuscating, bullying, lying, cheating, deceiving, and hiding the truth, solely for the purpose of pursuing their own mindless political doctrine.

    Sadly, if this madness prevails, so many innocent, decent people, along with their livelihoods and their businesses are going to suffer and continue to suffer for a long, long time in the future.

    This is the real, potential calamity!

  • Well said NJ. Just as yesterday the man Baker crossed a line when he pretended data collated by civil servants was always wrong, and the maybot wittered on about a bespoke agreement, and she’s been told over and over there won’t be one, today an insupportable injustice was ‘corrected’ by this government, as we call them, and the information on possible futures, blacked out in parts and locked up in a private room, could be seen by mps. It gives hope that the tory bunch won’t allow themselves or be allowed to go on criminally deceiving the country. It’s becoming hard to see how they will get brexit done at all; it looked like being an expensive fudge, now it looks like dominic cummings’ worst nightmare.

  • Listened to Newsnight this evening with Evans Davis trying to discuss the Impact studies with Ken Clarke and Peter Bone. Bone was singing the praises of Minford saying that he had been correct about the economy not collapsing immediately post the Referendum. I really feel it would be worthwhile to run an easily understandable analysis of Minford Economics to expose its weaknesses. Both Rees Mogg and Bone are really wanting to push towards his ideas. Whilst they are enthusiastic to point out that removing our tariffs would result in a fall in prices, they omit to say that according to his economic model, Manufacturing would virtually be eliminated in the UK. So prices are lower, but employment takes a massive hit. By their selective use of ‘Minford Economic Theory’, the Hard Brexiteers are attempting to deceive the British Public in a shameful way.

  • All well and good. And there should be much more transparency from the govt but how many leavers do you think it will convert?

    I’ll take a stab at zero.

    The problem now for those of us hoping that Brexit might be cancelled isn’t a lack of doom and gloom over the damage Brexit will cause, but that many leavers have either switched off or simply didn’t care to begin with.

    The problem with much of the pro-Remain debate is that with just 14 months until Brexit, the same people are invariably comes down to rehashing the failed arguments of the referendum.

    So much time has been wasted, by the Brexiteers in sorting out Brexit. But also by Remainers, many of whom have not reconciled themselves with the fact that the economic argument wasn’t sufficient over 18 months ago and still isn’t now.

    What should have been happening in the last 18 months is the formation of a new internal deal for the UK, a package put together by pro-Remain MPs – including enacting Belgian-esque immigration controls on EU citizens, increased funding for deprived areas, etc. This would have demonstrated to protest voters that their voices had been heard, and also afforded Remainers a positive collaborative vision to sell instead of simply having to rehash the awful failure that was the Remain campaign.

    The Leave campaign offered a, quite frankly ludicrous, vision and policies it would never ever been in position to enact, and that still won the day over the vision of a tired status quo and the merchants of doom and gloom.

    Rather than learn the lessons from such a defeat, many Remainers would seemingly rather cling to the desperate hope that somehow millions of Leavers will undergo some miraculous Damascene conversion if they simply keep bombarding them with the same bad news over and over again.

    Many Brexiteers might well be in denial about the pain that Brexit will bring, but that denial is no lesser or greater that among those Remainers who think Brexit can be overturned by the same strategy that failed so badly in 2016.

  • Just to say – all we need to do is get the “Public voting on result”; don’t need to call it EURef2 unless we like sticking sharp objects up Mail readers noses. 😉

    Brextremists have now realised the sole way to get ‘hard’ Brexshit is to win said EURef2, which means the 30% hard Remoan, the 30% hard Brexshit, outnumber the ~40% likely to be OK with ‘soft’ Brexshit.

    Or to put it another way, the current ~60% in favour of “Public being consulted again”is unlikely to increase much, but it’s unimportant. The important thing is ensuring Brextremists understand that a EURef2 (“Definitely not a Referendum but a Public Consultation”) is their only hope, – and then WINNING IT.

    Thankfully, the Tories are losing it.