Government says civil servants need ‘safe space’ for Brexit talks as it refuses to publish impact assessments

DExEU confirms that 58 impact studies have been produced for sectors ranging from agriculture  to tourism, but refuses to publish them


By Agnes Chambre

31 Oct 2017

The government has refused to publish key details of a set of Brexit impact assessments, claiming officials need a “safe space” to make policy as the UK negotiates its exit terms from the European Union.

The Department for Exiting the European Union responded to a Freedom of Information request from Labour MP Seema Malhotra yesterday, claiming publication of the 58 documents would undermine policy creation.

“There is a strong public interest in policy-making associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality and conducted in a safe space to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private,” the department said in response to the request.


“In this case, releasing the commissioning document for this exercise, which is still a live policy issue, may undermine the effective formulation or development of policies which are key to our negotiating strategy.

“Disclosure would similarly set a precedent that would inhibit free and frank discussion in the future. Without the necessary safe space for unreserved instruction in commissioning briefs, the quality of the eventual advice from the respective exercise would be diminished and would in turn lead to poorer decision making.”

David Davis’s department added it would rather release the documents in an “organised and efficient manner” than through FoI.

Yesterday, the government published a list of the sectors covered in the 58 documents in correspondence with the House of Lords EU Select Committee but refused Malhotra’s request.

These revealed that the sectors where reports about the impact of Brexit were being prepared included, fisheries and environmental services, defence, insurance and pensions, medical devices, nuclear, professional services and technology, and tourism.

Malhotra accused DExEU of wanting a “blank cheque on Brexit” by not releasing the reports.

“The government’s reference to needing to conduct Brexit policy-making in a ‘safe place to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private’ seems to be more about keeping parliament and the public in the dark.”

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