By Mark Fairlie
The Government has been forced into a U-turn on an earlier decision not to publish a leaked Brexit study which predicted negative economic consequences no matter what the final status of the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Reported by BBC News Online on 30th January, Brexit Minister Steve Baker said that the leaked Brexit study was at a “preliminary stage” and that its full release could impair the UK’s bargaining strength in its talks with the EU.
However, the following day (31st January), the BBC reported that ministers were now preparing to allow MPs and peers to read the leaked studies.
What was in the Leaked Brexit Study?
On January 29th, online news site Buzzfeed reported that it had seen the study, “which says leaving the EU will adversely hit almost every sector and every UK region”.
The study looked at three possible outcomes of the negotiations.
The “no deal”, favoured by many Brexiteers, outcome which would mean that Britain trades with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules would reduce growth over the 15 years following Brexit by 8%.
A “comprehensive” free trade agreement would lead to 5% lower growth over the same 15-year period while continued access to the EU Single Market as a member of the European Economic Area would see a 2% long-term decline in growth.
Why did the Government change its mind over publication?
The Labour Party introduced a motion in the House of Commons on 31st January urging publication of the study.
Ministers decided not to oppose the motion amid signs (according to the BBC) that “it would lose the vote”, despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s concerns about how it would affect the UK’s negotiating position.
Mrs May, as reported in the Evening Standard, said that it was “wrong to describe the report as the Brexit impact assessment…there is analysis being done. This is very preliminary.”
The Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, declared that the motion was binding on the Government and that handover of the report to the Brexit select committee was “a matter of urgency”.
Kier Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, speaking to the Guardian, described the decision to release the leaked Brexit study as a “victory for transparency and accountability.”
Steve Baker, Brexit Minister, said that he was allowing the publication of the report because of the poor press reporting surrounding the contents of the study and warned that publication did “not set any precedent for future action”, according to Sky News.
Speaking to Russia Today TV, Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that
“(f)or months, Theresa May’s government have refused to produce any detailed analysis of the potential impact of various Brexit scenarios – now we know why they have so desperately engaged in a cover-up.”
More bad news for the Government from the same document
On January 31st, further analysis of the leaked report on BuzzFeed suggested that “the cost of falling EU migration would more than wipe out the economic boost of a US trade deal.”
The site commented that this highlighted the difficulties that Mrs May and the Government faced into trying to balance any long-term negative impacts on the economy whilst trying to satisfy the demands of Leave voters.