“EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing”

Andrew Partridge made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Department for Exiting the European Union

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

I am requesting under FOI a copy of the “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing” recently leaked to Buzzfeed News.

While I am sure you will try to withhold this information under various exemptions I would ask you to bear in mind that:

(a) although it is wrong that the information was leaked, the information is now partly in the public domain in the form of headline figures;

(b) its partial availability to the public is likely to result in misunderstanding as to the facts and arguments within the analysis;

(c ) it is increasingly likely that the Government will have to call a further referendum, this time on the outcome of negotiations with the EU. It is very much in the public interest (especially given the distorted arguments presented by both sides in the June 2016 referendum) for the facts as understood by the Government department directly responsible for the negotiations to be in the public domain well before the new referendum.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Partridge

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Andrew Partridge, 
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX001035. We will now respond
in line with the Freedom of Information Act.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png
E: [2][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter: @DExEUgov

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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Atodiad

Dear Andrew Partridge,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX001035. Please find our
attached extension.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png
E: [2][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter: @DExEUgov

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

1 Atodiad

Dear Andrew Partridge,
Thank you for your FOI request, reference DEX001035. Please find our
attached response.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI Team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png
E: [2][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter: @DExEUgov

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Your reference: DEX001035

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

Thank you for your response of 6 March 2018. I am writing to request an internal review of your handling of my FOI request for the 'EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing'. Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

Please take the following into account in your review.

1. The exceptional circumstances

The Government's decision to hold a referendum on EU membership was exceptional and made matters related to leaving the EU directly the business of the electorate. Parliament subsequently decided it was obliged to follow the electorate's decision. In the circumstances of this particular case it is entirely reasonable that the electorate should be allowed to see the analysis. In the end it is likely to be the electorate who will finally decide the matter of our future dealings with the EU, either through a general election or a further referendum on whatever agreement the Government proposes before March 2019 to reach with the other EU member states.

The information I requested is already partly in the public domain. There is now a bus doing the rounds claiming that Brexit will cost the UK £2,000m per week. On the other hand in 2016 the Leavers' bus proclaimed that leaving the EU would bring in £350m per week, and Mr Davis subsequently promised 'a comprehensive free trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have'. In the circumstances the availability of factual and accurate analysis to the public is essential in the national interest. The information I have requested is likely to have been the most factually accurate analysis available at the time of my request and probably will remain so for some time to come. If the analysis is not based on fact and sound economics then I am not sure why Ministers would have commissioned it. Your response suggested that it is preliminary and unfinished. I respectfully suggest that it was prepared for a series of meetings with Cabinet Ministers, and while it may be preliminary in the sense that other briefings may well follow it and brief on the same issues, it was complete for the purpose for which it was intended.

Without release the public will be unable to check the validity of the methodology, evidence and the factual and statistical analysis. Section 35(4) of the FOI Act says that there will be a particular public interest in disclosing the factual background to a policy.

In anticipation of another general election or referendum (as currently seems likely), the public should have all the facts and probabilities based on them, unvarnished, in order to assess the validity of the government's proposed approach. Given the complexity of the issues the public deserves to see this analysis now in order that it can contribute to a fully informed public debate over the year or so that remains before we are due to leave the EU.

I recognise that government needs safe space and time, sometimes considerable time, in which to consider policy options. Considerable time (nearly a year) has however now elapsed since the submission of the Article 50 letter to the EU and the scenarios outlined in the briefing are ones that have been obvious possibilities for a long time. They are not new policies, nor are they the Government's preferred approach. In the exceptional circumstances of the referendum and its aftermath and especially the desirability of the electorate being well informed about the consequences of various courses of action (because of the likelihood of its having to decide the issue in a further iteration of the democratic process) I suggest that the safe space arguments do not apply with the same force here. Nor would release in the exceptional circumstances of this case set a precedent for release in other cases.

2. The Government's commentary on the briefing

The Government requested the analysis from the civil service. In the House of Commons on 30 January a junior Minister from your Department discredited the analysis and the civil servants who produced it. This too considerably diminishes your safe space arguments. It also undermines your arguments about the harm to the UK's interests abroad, as little can be more damaging to our negotiating position than a public statement disclosing that the UK side is divided because our Ministers do not trust their civil servants or their economic advice. Substantive release in such circumstances is important so that those who produced the analysis can, if it is indeed flawed, be held to account.

The Minister issued a limited apology on the following day but the discrediting of this piece of work of civil servants by a Minister responsible for Brexit remains as a matter of record. The Minister has not resigned or been dismissed. Future civil service analysis on this matter will therefore always be suspect. It is important for the public to see the information the better to understand why there was a breakdown of relations between the government of the day and the civil service, and whether that was justified. There is a very considerable public interest in good government and in having confidence in the work of officials, especially at a time such as this.

3. Partial release

The headline figures from the briefing are already in the public domain and are as available to the EU negotiators as they are to the public in the UK. The Department argues variously that release of the whole of the information would damage the government's negotiating position, international relations, economic prospects, and the safe space. In my contention these outcomes are unlikely because the EU side have their own economists who will have prepared their own similar background assessment of the UK's position. It will not surprise them. As regards the safe space I have already drawn attention to the issues and section 35(4).

Only where the analysis turns to speculative interpretation of the evidence, or recommendations or candid discussion revealing the UK's negotiating strategy may the harm to which you refer occur.

What is likely is that there are substantial parts of the analysis that can be released without those effects, especially factual and statistical information intended to provide an informed background to policy discussions. In this regard the junior Minister has stated that the government's preferred option was not included in the analysis. The scenarios that were reported are therefore backstop scenarios and given that the headline figures have been released it is hard to see what harm can result from release of factual and statistical background on backstop scenarios.

I ask that the Department undertake an internal review urgently and, failing a decision to release the whole analysis, I ask it to consider what parts of the analysis can be released immediately.

If any information is still to be withheld I would ask you in your reply to be clear about the degree of prejudice in the case of the relevant exemptions (both s27 and s29) i.e. whether release 'would prejudice' or 'would be likely to prejudice'; and how harm would arise and why it is likely to occur. As you know the former has a higher threshold. At present your response sets out the degree of prejudice only in respect of s27.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Partridge

DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Andrew Partridge, 
This email confirms that we have received your internal review request on
FOI DEX001035. The Department will now conduct an internal review and will
contact you once this has been concluded.
Kind regards, 
DExEU FOI team

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
[1]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png
E: [2][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter: @DExEUgov

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DEXEU Freedom of Information Team Mailbox, Department for Exiting the European Union

Dear Andrew Partridge
You may not be aware that the Select Committee for Exiting the EU, after
consultation with the Department, has recently published a copy of the
information you requested on its website here:
[1]https://www.parliament.uk/business/commi...
As the information you have requested is now in the public domain, please
let me know if you wish to proceed with an internal review - I will await
your reply before proceeding.
Kind regards
Nick Short (Head of FOI DExEU)

Freedom of Information Team

9 Downing Street | London | SW1A 2AG
[2]DfEEU_CYAN_SML_AW.png
E: [3][DEEU request email]  

You can follow DExEU on Twitter: @DExEUgov

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Dear Mr Short,

I was pleased to see that the Select Committee yesterday published the report for reasons similar to some of the arguments which I put forward. I note that they have agreed to redact Annex B as potentially prejudicial to the negotiations . In the circumstances I am content for you not to proceed with the internal review.

Thank you for drawing this to my attention.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Partridge