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Exiting the EU: sectoral impact assessments

Published Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On 1 November 2017 the House of Commons resolved that the so-called "Brexit Impact Assessments" should be provided to the Committee on Exiting the EU. This short briefing paper sets out the background to the debate and the Government's response to the resolution.

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In December 2016 David Davis told the Exiting the EU Select Committee that the Government was “in the midst of carrying out about 57 sets of analyses” of the impact of Brexit on sectors which accounted for 85% of the UK economy. 

The sectors covered were listed in a Government response to a report of the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee. 

The assessments became subject to Freedom of Information requests and interest from select committees but all attempts to access the information were turned down on the basis that publication would prejudice the interests of the UK overseas and the UK’s economic interests.  The House of Commons had itself resolved in December 2016 that there should be no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK in any negotiations.

On 1 November the House of Commons resolved that the so-called “Brexit Impact Assessments” should be provided to the Exiting the EU Select Committee.  The motion was passed without division.  The motion was tabled as a “motion for a return”.  This device has not commonly been used by the House of Commons in modern times in such circumstances.  Governments have used the device of a “motion for unopposed return” to publish information with the protection of Parliamentary privilege.

On 7 November the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU made a Written Statement noting that “it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist”.  He explained that there is a “wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum”.  It would therefore take time to collate the information.  He also stated that there might be confidential and commercially sensitive information in the analysis, and that advice to ministers must remain private.

Information was provided to the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee and the House of Lords European Union Committees on 27 November.  The Government consider the provision of the information to have met the requirements of the motion.  However, information that was considered to be commercially or market sensitive, or potentially damaging to negotiations was not included. 

An urgent question was granted on 28 November where the Official Opposition and the Chair of the Select Committee expressed dissatisfaction. 

The Exiting the EU Committee is taking evidence from David Davis on 6 December 2017.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8128

Author: Lucinda Maer

Topics: Freedom of information, House of Commons, Industry, Parliamentary procedure

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