Brexit: Urgent question granted to Labour as pressure grows for release of full analysis on EU withdrawal

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Labour has been granted an urgent question in the House of Commons which they will use to push the Government to fully release all parts of an analysis into the impact of Brexit on the economy.

Shadow cabinet member Sir Keir Starmer will tell the Government they still have time ahead of a deadline later today to pass over parts of the analysis ministers are refusing to release.

Ministers have agreed to release 850 pages of information, but have admitted withholding elements which they say are commercially sensitive or could damage the UK’s interests in Brexit negotiations.

The handover of the documents to the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU, chaired by ex-Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, came after Labour won a vote in Parliament forcing the Government to transfer them.

Sir Keir now claims the Government could be in contempt of Parliament if it refuses to release all parts of the analysis contained in the documentation. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It follows from that that the Government could be in contempt of Parliament. It is certainly treating Parliament with contempt.

“We intend to press the issue with the Speaker and raise the question of whether they are now in contempt.

“Having agreed to this procedure they are breaching it at the 11th hour.”

On 1 November, Labour tabled a “humble address” to the Queen asking for what it termed the “impact assessments” of Brexit to be provided to the Commons committee.

Labour’s motion demanding the release of 58 impact assessments once alluded to by Brexit Secretary David Davis, was passed without a vote earlier this month after ministers indicated the Government would not oppose it.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said at the time that the arcane parliamentary procedure of a humble address used by Labour has “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective”, and said he would be willing to consider an accusation of contempt if the Government failed to respond.

But an official at Mr Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union explained that the Government had never had 58 separate assessments as such, but instead had a broad body of information consisting of all the analysis that the UK Government had done on Brexit and issues related to various sectors.

In a bid to comply with Parliament and assist the Commons committee, civil servants had drawn together in some 39 reports totalling 850 pages, documents that touched upon 58 sectors, the official said – albeit withholding certain parts.

Brexit minister Steve Baker said: “The Government has satisfied the motion, providing the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee with information covering 58 sectors of the economy. We have also shared the information with the Lords EU Committee.

“We have always been clear that our analysis does not exist in the form Parliament requested. We have taken time to bring together the analysis we do have in a way that meets Parliament’s specific ask.

“Our overall programme of work is comprehensive, thorough and is continuously updated. This sectoral analysis is simply one part of it.”