Civil service analysis dubbed ‘an attempt to undermine Brexit’ by DExEU minister to be published

Vote by parliament to release analysis comes after it was leaked to media


PA

By Richard Johnstone

01 Feb 2018

The government is to publish in full a Whitehall economic analysis described by a minister as an effort to undermine Brexit after Labour won a Commons vote demanding its release.

The vote means that the document, which was partially leaked to the media, will be released, Steve Baker, a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, said.

The analysis, prepared by civil servants and obtained by BuzzFeed News, suggested that Britain would be worse off under any Brexit scenario. It said that even if the UK were to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, the UK’s economic growth would be 5% lower over the next 15 years – and 8% lower in the case of a “no deal”.


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Following the leak, Baker said the analysis was “an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union” and said it had “not been led by my department”.

In comments described by Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union for senior civil servants, as “an insult” to staff, Baker also said the analysis “does not yet properly take account of the opportunities of leaving the EU”.

“It is not yet anywhere near approved by ministers. Even the ministerial team in my department has only just consulted on this paper in recent days, and we have made it clear that it requires significant further work,” he said, claiming he was unable to name a single accurate civil service forecast.

“No, I’m not able to name an accurate forecast, and I think they are always wrong and wrong for good reasons. My longstanding views on the flaws in the epistemology of the social sciences and consequences for econometrics are long set out."

Following yesterday’s vote, Baker said he would release the document on an "exceptional basis" to combat what he called "poor reporting" of its contents.

"It does not set any precedent for future action,” he added.

It is expected to be given to the Exiting the European Union select committee.

The correspondence comes after the Department for Exiting the European Union published a series of sector analysis documents last month following a long-running battle with Whitehall.

MPs voted to demand the government make public the outcome of studies it had carried out into Brexit's possible impact on the UK economy, but Brexit secretary David Davis came under fire from MPs on the Committee for Exiting the European Union because the 850 pages of analysis that the documents comprised were not the “impact assessments” they had initially requested.

Last month, chancellor Philip Hammond told MPs that the government was undertaking “a programme of rigorous and comprehensive analysis that will contribute to the exit negotiations” with the European Union but he said details would not be published.

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