Leaked Brexit documents will be released if MPs insist on it, Government says


Controversial Government analysis stating that any outcome from Brexit would damage the economy will be released if MPs demand it, Downing Street has said.

The move is in stark contrast to comments Prime Minister Theresa May made en route to China when she said making the leaked documents public would be "wrong".

The climbdown came as the Government faced possible defeat on Wednesday over an opposition "humble address" motion calling for the documents to be released.

Downing Street also said Justice Minister Phillip Lee had been called in by the Chief Whip after he tweeted that if the figures in the leaked assessment are "anywhere near right", there should be a "serious question" about the Government's approach to Brexit.

Justice Minister Phillip Lee was called in by the chief whip regarding his comments on the leaked document(Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/(Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)/PA)
Justice Minister Phillip Lee was called in by the chief whip (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

Pressed on whether Mrs May was wrong to state the documents should not be released, a Government spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "No, because the analysis that is requested by this humble address is incomplete and that is what we have said.

"This was produced without ministerial sign-off and has been leaked, and therefore is incomplete.

"If the House decides it wants to see this analysis, even though it is provisional and has not gone through the proper processes ... then we will abide by the will of the House."

Downing Street said the PM had seen a first draft of the analysis last week.

A spokesman said: "It is right, and it is correct for the civil service to prepare these sorts of analyses to help inform the Government's decision as the end state negotiations continue."

Number 10 made it clear Brexit-backing minister Steve Baker would not be reprimanded after telling MPs on Tuesday that official forecasts drawn up by civil servants were "always wrong".

Asked why Mr Lee had been disciplined over his remarks but not the Brexit Minister, a Government spokesman said Mr Baker's comments were made in a statement to the Commons, while Mr Lee had been "speculating" on leaked documents.

A Government spokesman said of Mr Lee: "He has been spoken to by the Chief Whip and been reminded it is best to air views in private.

"It is the fact that he aired it in public. That it was speculating about a leaked document in public."

Downing Street said the partial analysis had not modelled Mrs May's preferred outcome of a bespoke deal with the EU.

Earlier, the PM dismissed the significance of the leaked Government studies.

The papers prepared by the Department for Exiting the EU and obtained by website Buzzfeed suggested that, even with a comprehensive trade deal of the kind Mrs May is seeking, UK growth would be down by 5% over the next 15 years.

This would rise to 8% if Britain left without a deal and was forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules.

But Mrs May said the findings were "very preliminary" and did not address the actual deal which she is hoping to conclude.

"It would be wrong to describe this as 'the Brexit impact assessment'," the Prime Minister told reporters travelling with her on a trade mission to China.

"There is analysis being done. This is very preliminary.

"It would be wrong to publish analysis before that analysis has been completed, and it would also be wrong to publish analysis which might prejudice our negotiating position, and indeed Parliament itself has accepted that."

Number 10 said the Tories would not take part in the vote on the humble address motion which would be binding if passed.

The analysis could be given to a select committee, or directly to MPs, Downing Street said.