Government ditches non-disclosure agreements for Brexit preparations

Use of gagging clauses ends to improve "debate, transparency and exchange of information"


By Richard Johnstone

22 Aug 2019

Photo: PA

Business discussing the impact of Brexit with government will no longer be bound by non-disclosure agreements to keep the details of the talks confidential, ministers have said.

The Cabinet Office today announced that the use of NDAs, which it said had been routine for trade groups and businesses working with the government over the past three years to maintain confidentiality, would end from today.

The move by the department, which has taken on responsibility for no-deal Brexit planning after Boris Johnson became prime minister, is intended to improve the exchange of information on the impact of leaving the EU, with some groups having told ministers the restrictions limit their ability to properly tell members how to prepare for Brexit.


Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of the no-deal Brexit planning, has said the government is now operating “on the assumption” that the UK will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement. The decision to end the use of NDAs “in the vast majority of circumstances” is part of moves to increase preparations for a exit, and was made by the exit operations cabinet sub-committee meeting this week.

From today, such agreements will only be entered into, or existing agreements maintained, when this is "strictly necessary", the Cabinet Office said. This includes circumstances in which an NDA is needed to protect the interests of third parties.

A government spokesperson said: “As we continue our preparations for Brexit on October 31, it makes no sense to engage processes which hinder constructive debate, transparency and exchange of information. It is vital that trade groups and businesses can speak openly to one another about preparations and so we will no longer enter into such agreements unless absolutely necessary.”

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