Today MPs are working themselves into a bother over the government’s Brexit impact reports. Although David Davis has handed them to the Brexit select committee – as ordered by the Speaker – MPs have been left disappointed given that the document in question is rather sparse on details as it does not include anything the government has deemed market sensitive or damaging to the UK’s negotiations with the EU27.
With Keir Starmer to ask an Urgent Question on the issue, Labour is expected to criticise the government for keeping out relevant information. However, Mr S suspects the Labour party ought to tread with caution before going on the offensive. When Hilary Benn, the current chair of the Brexit select committee, was Defra secretary he regularly relied on such exemptions to conceal information from Freedom of Information requests on much more trivial issues. They included topics such as giant pandas and which zoos they lived in, naming all the sites in England which are licensed to hold Welsh Catfish, the location of blight resistant potato test sites in England and concealing a report about the recognition of the United Knabstrupper Association (for those not in the know, the Knabstrupper is a horse breed from Denmark known for its eccentric coat).
As Tom Pursglove puts it: ‘If the Labour Government wouldn’t release information about waste contracts and Catfish farms, why should it now have to release sensitive information for the most important negotiations in history?’
There’s a question to put to Starmer when he speaks in the Chamber…