BREXIT, PARLIAMENT, AND THE ‘58 SECTORAL STUDIES’
For some time, the UK government has been saying that it has conducted over 50 sectoral studies of the economic impacts of Brexit on different parts of the UK economy. Unsurprisingly, opposition parties have called for the disclosure of any such studies, which has been resisted by the government on the grounds that it could damage the UK’s negotiating position with the EU. The House of Commons itself passed a motion on 7 December 2016 accepting that there should be no disclosure of material that could reasonably judged to have that effect.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to exert pressure for the release of the studies by other means, Labour tabled a motion framed as a “humble Address” to the Sovereign and as a “motion for a return”, an old procedural device not much used since the mid 19th century, which is generally considered by Parliamentary precedents to be binding on the government. Perhaps because several Conservative MPs supported the motion, the government opted not to oppose it, so the motion passed on 1 November 2017.
What the motion actually calls for is for the list of sectors analysed to be laid before the House; and for the impact assessments from the analyses to be provided to the Committee for Exiting the European Union. This is the Committee scrutinising the Brexit process chaired by Hilary Benn MP (see separate Wyeside website report on Hilary Benn MP’s comments on 6 November 2017 at the Institute for Government).
This is a significant political issue, and further evidence of the highly charged political atmosphere and the Parliamentary travails of a government with no overall majority. The government will be highly reluctant to reveal impact assessment details which could make its task in the EU negotiations any harder, and will also be wary of reinforcing anti-Brexit sentiment by any sector analyses which indicate negative economic effects from Brexit. The opposition, and some Conservative MPs, feel that effective and properly informed Parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit’s economic impacts is fully justified. Brexit opponents will seize on any negative impacts within the sectoral studies as evidence that “we told you so”.
For further information please contact William Wilson, Barrister, Director, Wyeside Consulting Ltd on +44(0)1225-730-407, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>